Updated: January 12, 2012, 2:11 AM ET
Blake Griffin 9-23 FG | 1-4 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | +6

Griffin's improved range on his jumper is opening eyeballs -- he knocked down a 3-pointer on Wednesday night -- but it was the toughness he displayed through four quarters that warrants the real praise. Griffin has been rightfully criticized for lackluster defensive performances in the past, but he took charges, chased loose balls and helped hold down the paint when his team needed it most against the Heat.

Chris Paul 11-21 FG | 5-5 FT | 6 REB | 11 AST | 27 PTS | +13

In a game featuring some of the league's biggest stars, Paul absolutely shined the brightest. Aggressive right from the opening tip, he ruthlessly exploited his mismatches and picked apart Miami's defense with the perfect combination of scoring and distributing. Paul once again proved that there isn't a player on the planet you feel safer with down the stretch.

Caron Butler 5-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 20 PTS | +9

After being locked up by Miami's perimeter defense, Butler asserted himself in the second half as the third scorer the Clippers desperately needed. Butler's warming up also coincided with Miami's transition game slowing down, because the Heat could no longer thrive off long misses (18 first half fastbreak points). With the Heat overcompensating defensively for Paul's brilliance, Butler made them pay.


The game is probably over if the Clippers secure a defensive rebound off LeBron's first critical miss from the free-throw line, but don't discount the defensive effort in the clutch by the Clippers. With Paul steadily guiding the offense and DeAndre Jordan protecting the paint and sending away shots, the Clippers more than earned their victory against the league's most talented team.

Miami Heat

You'll remember this game for LeBron's failures at the free-throw line, but Miami's inability as an offense to create good looks in the game's waning moments is perhaps more troubling. For the Clippers, scoring a win like this in the infant stages of their development as a team carries more meaning than just another W in the standings. This was a signature win.

Grades by D.J. Foster