- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers weren't sure how successful they would be when Chris Paul went down because of a separated right shoulder, but with their All-Star point guard expected to return to the lineup Sunday, the team finished off its 19-game stretch without him in impressive fashion.
After defeating the Toronto Raptors 118-105 the Clippers are now 14-6 this season without Paul and have actually improved their winning percentage while he has been out.
How it happened: It looked as if the Clippers would run away early after they took an 18-point lead in the second quarter and a 22-point lead in the third quarter. After an unsuccessful run at "Hack-a-Jordan," the Raptors actually cut the Clippers' lead to eight before the fourth quarter, but that was as close as they would get.
What it means: With Paul expected to return to the lineup Sunday, the Clippers went an impressive 13-6 in this latest stretch without their team leader, holding their place in the Western Conference standings.
Hits: Blake Griffin blossomed into an MVP candidate with Paul out and once again showed why Friday, finishing with 36 points and eight rebounds and becoming the first Clippers player since the team moved to Los Angeles to score at least 36 points in three straight games. DeAndre Jordan also had 18 points and 13 rebounds and hit enough free throws in the third quarter to force Toronto to stop intentionally fouling him.
Misses: Outside of Willie Green, who scored 12 points, the Clippers didn't get much from the bench as Jared Dudley had only five points and Reggie Bullock had three points. The Clippers' second unit was a big reason the team nearly squandered its 22-point lead in the third quarter.
Stat of the game: The Clippers shot 54 free throws in the game and made 37 of them, forcing the Raptors to at least abandon their philosophy of frequent fouling.
Up next: The Clippers return to Staples Center on Sunday to play the Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers beat the 76ers 94-83 in their first meeting of the season, in which Griffin had 26 points, Jordan had 21 rebounds and Paul had 11 assists.
7hMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon