LOS ANGELES – Darren Collison scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half and had seven assists in his second start at point guard since Chris Paul’s injury, leading the Los Angeles Clippers to a 101-81 rout of the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
Paul, who separated his right shoulder in Friday’s win at Dallas and is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks, sat behind the Clippers’ bench in a suit and tie while Collison orchestrated things without a hitch against the last-place team in the Southeast Division.
The Clippers enjoyed one of their best defensive efforts of the season, after surrendering 70 first-half points in each of their previous two games against Dallas and San Antonio – both on the road.
Jamal Crawford chipped in with 13 points and eight of the team’s 30 assists. Blake Griffin – bogged down by early foul trouble – had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists. DeAndre Jordan had 17 rebounds and 14 points.
Reserves Maurice Harkless and Victor Oladipo each scored 22 points for the Magic, who have lost four straight and 11 of their last 15 games.
Center Nikola Vucevic, who had 30 points and 21 rebounds against the Clippers in Orlando’s 98-90 home loss on Nov. 6, had just two points and eight boards in 20 minutes after missing the previous two games because of sprained left ankle. He left the game with a head injury after fouling Griffin near the Clippers’ basket and taking a hard spill with 8:18 left in the third quarter.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers had all of his starters on the bench at the beginning of the fourth quarter with an 85-55 lead, but he had to put them all back in after Jason Maxiell’s dunk capped a 16-2 run that narrowed the gap to 87-71 with 7:01 remaining.
Griffin had two fouls in the first 4:05 of the game and went to the bench after the Clippers opened the game with a 12-3 run. But Jordan extended the margin to 20-3 less than 2 1-2 minutes later with a demonstrative slam dunk, after Jamal Crawford set up an alley-oop dunk by Jordan and a 22-footer by Collison.
The sellout crowd – along with Rivers and his coaching staff – held their collective breath when Collison was fouled hard under the Clippers’ basket by Jameer Nelson and didn’t get up for a few anxious seconds after hitting the deck.
Collison signed a free-agent deal with the Clippers in July after they traded backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix. As a rookie in 2009-10 with the New Orleans Hornets – now the Pelicans – Collison filled in as a starter when Paul had to sit out with injuries. In one game, Collison set a single-game franchise record for rookies with 20 assists.