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Blake Griffin's 43 not enough. L.A. Clippers fall to champion Heat, 116-112

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The Los Angeles Clippers were game, but they need a lot more rehearsing after losing to the two-time defending world champion Miami Heat, 116-112.

It was a high-flying battle waged above the rim with Clippers all-star Blake Griffin going toe-to-toe against the reigning league MVP LeBron James.

James led six Heat (35-13) players in double-figures registering a double-double scoring a team-high 31 points to go along with 12 assists and eight rebounds.

Not to be outdone, Griffin poured in a game-high 43 points 15 rebounds and six assists in the losing effort.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers equates the regular season as a dress rehearsal for the playoff grind.

But a regular season loss is a loss.

Considering Los Angeles (34-18) played without injured point guard Chris Paul – out with a separated shoulder – and shooting guard J.J. Redick – who was scratched after back and hip issues - the Clippers had a chance to win the game coming up just short.

“There are no moral victories” said Griffin after the game. “But I loved the way our guys fought. I couldn’t be more proud of how everybody stuck in there and gutted it out.”

An uphill struggle for the Clippers, they were the “odd-man out” falling behind by as many as 17 points in the first and 18 in the third quarter needing rallies in the second and fourth to make it a game.

“I told our guys when they went up by 18, guys we’ve done this before.” Doc Rivers said after the game. “We were down 17 then cut the lead. I’m very happy at the fight we had.”

Los Angeles got as close as 101-99 with under four minutes left in the game but couldn’t quite get over the hump.

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford tallied 31 points including a buzzer-beating three-pointefr at the end of the second putting Los Angeles within seven at halftime.

Center DeAndre Jordan had another “Bill Russell-esque effort” with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Matt Barnes added 12 for the Clippers.

For Miami center Chris Bosh and guard Ray Allen each finished with 15 points while Dwayne Wade and Shane Battier each had 14. “The Birdman” Chris Andersen had 12 and Mario Chalmers finished with 10.

Miami had lost five straight to the Clippers in Los Angeles prior to tonight's win. The Heat swept the two-game season series winning by five in Miami last Novemeber.

The Clippers have now lost two straight and the first of a five-game home stand at Staples Center. They’ll look to re-group when they host the Toronto Raptors Friday night when guard Chris Paul could return to the line-up.