Chris Paul is one of the best point guards of his generation. But he can heat up and be a deadly shot from long distance, like he was in Sunday’s 120-97 victory over the Lakers.
Paul scored 23 points and made 8 of 10 shots from the field. Even more impressive, he made all four of his 3-point attempts.
Coach Doc Rivers was not surprised.
“He can do that, he just chooses not to do that,” Rivers said. “So when you watch him shoot in practice with J.J. (Redick) and those guys, he’s right there with them. He gets in the game and he usually is so busy being a point guard, and he forgets that he’s a shooter. And a lot of his shots are second-thought shots, which are very difficult to make. I thought he had a stretch in the third (quarter) where he was looking for a shot, and I enjoy when he plays that way.”
Paul shoots a respectable 36.2 percent (71 of 196) from 3-point range.
You hear it all the time – defense wins championships. To Chris Paul, that’s what it’s going to take for his team to make a deep run in the upcoming post-season. Following Sunday’s victory over the Lakers, he was asked about preparing for the playoffs, and his response reflected that credo.
“Like we’ve been saying for a while now, it’s about us,” Paul said. “(Coach) Doc (Rivers) told us going into this game that it’s about competing. Right now, different sets that we run, our defense … you just want to make it to where when you get into the playoffs, it’s like clockwork and you don’t have to think about it.
“I think those are the teams that are usually at their best. That’s why the Spurs are so successful and (why) the Heat are two-time defending champs. You just rely on your defense night in and night out.”
This season the Spurs are allowing 97.1 points per game, fourth best in the league. Miami is 6th at 97.3. The Clippers are allowing 100.7 points, 14th in the league. But they are also the highest-scoring team in the NBA at 107.8 points per game. Their differential of plus-7.1 is second best in the league behind San Antonio’s plus-8.5.
Coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the Clippers must be stoked about how well J.J. Redick is looking. After not having played for two months, he scored 15 points on 7 of 11 shooting in 24 minutes in his second game back. A bulging disc in Redick’s back has been the issue, but he did not look like someone with back issues Sunday. The Clippers really need him healthy for the playoffs.
- As good as that news is, there was still no Jamal Crawford, out for the fourth consecutive game because of an ongoing calf injury. Rivers told reporters before the game it would be a bummer if Crawford could not play again until the playoffs. But it’s looking like that is a real possibility.
- How about that game by Chris Paul. He scored 23 points and doled out six assists, which is actually lower than his average. But he made 8 of 10 from the field, including all four of his attempts from 3-point range.
- Blake Griffin had a fine game with 23 points on 7 of 14 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Interestingly, only one of his seven baskets came from any kind of distance, where most of misses came from. He hit one outside jumper and that was it. After missing three in a row at one juncture, his body language displayed a bit of frustration. But, hey, the good ones still find a way to have good games, which is what Griffin did.
- With this victory, by the end of Sunday night the Clippers had crawled to within a game of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings because of the Thunder’s loss to Phoenix. The Clippers (55-23) and OKC (55-21) square off Wednesday at staples Center. The Clippers have four games left, the Thunder six.
It wasn’t long after the Clippers defeated the Lakers 120-97 Sunday at Staples Center that Chris Paul was being asked about Wednesday’s game coming up against Oklahoma City, which at this writing was 1 1/2 games ahead of the Clippers in the Western Conference standings; the Thunder was embroiled in a Sunday game with Phoenix. OKC is the No. 2 seed in the conference at the moment, the Clippers No. 3.
“It’s a big game; big game for us,” Paul said. “I’m not sure where we are as far as seeding and stuff like that, but what is it, 2 to 1 right now us?”
Paul was informed that is correct.
“Yeah, so if it does come down to something like that, we’d love to have the tiebreaker,” he said.
The Clippers only have four games left, the Thunder have six after Sunday.
The Clippers defeated OKC 111-103 on Nov. 13 at Staples Center, lost to the Thunder 105-91 on Nov. 21 at Oklahoma City, then beat the Thunder 125-117 on Feb. 23 at OKC.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, OKC’s Kevin Durant was the leading scorer in all three games with 33, 28 and 42 points.
- First and foremost, the Clippers clinched their second consecutive Pacific Division title with this 112-108 victory. Sure, they want much more, but this is still very cool. At 54-22, they are 34 games over .500 and have won 17 of their past 19 games and went 4-1 on this just-concluded road trip ahead of Thursday’s game against Dallas at Staples Center.
- It’s good to see Jared Dudley contributing the way he is right now because strong benches are needed for long playoff runs. He scored 16 points while spelling an ailing Blake Griffin on Monday in a win at Minnesota. With Griffin back, Dudley played 24 minutes off the bench Wednesday and scored 12 points and made all six of his free throws, including the two that basically sealed the Suns’ fate. These back-to-back double-digit games are Dudley’s first since he scored 10 points Jan. 15 against Dallas.
- Chris Paul is Mr. Clutch. His 30-plus foot 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire with 1:48 to play put the Clippers up 108-106, a lead they did not relinquish. Paul had 20 points and nine assists. He did not have a good shooting night – going 6-for-17 from the field – but he came through at the most important time. Like superstars do. Oh, he was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Not too shabby at all.
- As for Griffin, you could tell at times that his back was bothering him. Kudos to him for working through it. Sometimes that’s the best thing for a bad back. He played 34 minutes and after a slow start shooting, he ended up going 7 of 15 from the field and he made 9 of 10 free throws for 23 points. He had six rebounds – low for him – and three assists.
- Finally, and most importantly, the Clippers once again showed they are a team that has that proverbial “Ninth-inning magic.” They were down by 17 points in the third quarter after having trailed by just two points (62-60) at halftime. They were on the road, playing against a Phoenix team fighting for its playoff life. And they come back and took the Suns’ heart right away from them. Victories like these are the kind of which championships are made.
- Look for the Goran Dragic-led Suns to give an inspiring effort. As of right now they are tied with Memphis for the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings. Ninth-place Dallas is only a half-game behind those two. Phoenix and Memphis are both 44-30 and have eight games left each. Dallas is 44-31 with seven games remaining.
- Look for Chris Paul to continue his terrific play. The Clippers are 3-1 on this road trip. In the game they lost – March 26 at New Orleans – Paul was 0 of 12 from the field and scored just two points. In successive victories over Dallas, Houston and Minnesota, he has scored 31, 30 and 22 points with 30 assists.
- Expect another heavy rebounding night from DeAndre Jordan, who seems to be getting stronger and even more dynamic as the regular season nears an end. Not only is he leading the NBA in rebounding with a 13.9 average, check this out: he has 67 rebounds on the road trip. That’s a 16.7 average. He had 24 Monday at Minnesota.
- If Blake Griffin is out again because of his back, expect Jared Dudley to again be a capable replacement. Keep in mind that even though he did not play Monday, Griffin did dress, meaning he wasn’t that far from being able to go. If Jamal Crawford (calf) also misses his second consecutive game, that could be a lot to deal with against a team fighting for it’s playoff life.
- If Griffin and Crawford play and are at least close to being reasonably healthy, the Clippers win this game going away because they are rolling right now. Even without those two they could win because along with Paul and Jordan, Matt Barnes and Darren Collison have been heavy contributors.
- It was smart for the Clippers (53-22) to hold Blake Griffin out of this game. He is arguably the team’s best player – though fans of Chris Paul may debate that – and there was no use risking not having a healthy Griffin for the post-season, which is just around the corner.
- Big-time kudos to Jared Dudley, who started in place of Griffin and came through with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. Dudley shot 6 of 10 from the field, 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
- Jamal Crawford, who had recently missed eight out of nine games, was back on the bench with what was described as a calf injury in an Associated Press story on the game. A strained left calf was why Crawford missed those aforementioned games before playing in five consecutive games ahead of Monday.
- DeAndre Jordan had a career-high 24 rebounds. Dude is just a beast. He also had 11 points and four blocks. However, showing he’s not perfect, Jordan also had five of the team’s 18 turnovers.
- Darren Collison had a terrific night shooting the ball. He was 9 of 17 from the field – 2 of 3 from 3-point range – and he made all eight of his free throws for a game-high 28 points. Picking up the offense like that when the team’s leading scorer (Griffin) is out is nothing but positive. Collison did have six turnovers to go with seven assists, but he also played 43 minutes. The points, minutes and turnovers were season-highs.
Next up, Wednesday at Phoenix.
- First and foremost, coach Doc Rivers is in control of this team. When Glen “Big Baby” Davis went too far in voicing his displeasure over being taken out of the game early in the second quarter, Rivers sent him to the locker room to stay for the rest of the game. Rivers said this in an Associated Press story: “I thought ‘Baby’ was just too emotional and for me if you’re too emotional I just always send you back to the locker room and keep you back there until the next game. But I love ‘Baby.’ I just didn’t think emotionally he was ready to play tonight.”
- The Clippers are really starting to show the mettle it will take them to make a long run in the post-season. When Blake Griffin went down with back spasms after just six minutes of playing time, and then Davis was sent to the locker room early in the second quarter, they were down 13 points. But the Clippers ended up outscoring the Rockets 38-25 in that second quarter on their way to their second consecutive victory on this road trip that still has stops Monday in Minnesota and Wednesday at Phoenix.
- Chris Paul, like a superstar should, is really elevating his game as the playoffs near. As good as he’s been all year, he has shown the past two games what a leader and a great player do when adversity strikes. Paul was 0 of 12 from the field in a loss at New Orleans on Wednesday. He came back with 31 points in a win Thursday at Dallas and 30 more Saturday, when he also came through with 12 assists, five rebounds and three steals. Oh, and he had just one turnover in 39 minutes. Other than that, he didn’t do a thing.
- Really like what Matt Barnes did in this one. Fifteen points and 10 rebounds, including a big 3-pointer late in the game that helped sealed Houston’s fate. Barnes is a hard-nosed guy who plays with lots of emotion. If he’s playing well, it’s such a boost to the team. One thing, his 10 3-point attempts seem a little much. He made three.
- It’s true that center Dwight Howard (ankle) and point guard Patrick Beverley (knee) were out for the Rockets. But Houston was still at home, and the Clippers were still without Griffin – the best player on either team – and reserve Danny Granger (hamstring). This was a solid victory. Keep in mind that’s three road games in three cities in four days for the Clippers.
Despite having Blake Griffin for only six minutes, the Clippers on Saturday defeated the host Houston Rockets 118-107 at Toyota Center.
Griffin went out in the first quarter with back spasms. He did not return. Also, reserve Glen “Big Baby” Davis was sent to the locker room in the second quarter by coach Doc Rivers following a verbal confrontation between the two near the Clippers’ bench. He, too, did not return.
Chris Paul led the Clippers, who clinched a playoff berth, with 30 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and three steals and only one turnover in 39 minutes.
DeAndre Jordan contributed 20 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for Los Angeles. He did not have to face Rockets center Dwight Howard, out with a sore ankle.
Matt Barnes, who hit a big 3-point shot down the stretch for a 10-point lead, had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
James Harden led the Rockets (49-23) with 32 points and Chandler Parsons scored 28.
The Clippers (52-22) moved two games up on Houston in the Western Conference standings.
Next up, Monday at Minnesota.
- Thursday’s rally from down double digits in the fourth quarter was the third time the Clippers have done that to the Mavericks this season. Thursday’s final was 109-103. In the other two, Los Angeles emerged by scores of 119-112 and 129-127.
- Superstars like Chris Paul don’t stay down long. He missed all 12 of his field goal attempts in Wednesday’s surprising loss at New Orleans. On Thursday he was 9 of 18 overall, 4 of 8 from 3-point range for a game-high 31 points. Enough said on that.
- Any time a team shows the wherewithal the Clippers showed Thursday, that makes playoff opponents take notice. They know the Clippers have heart, and that can be worrisome to said opponent.
- DeAndre Jordan averages 2.38 blocks as of this writing. He had a rare no-block game against Dallas. But when you score 16 points and grab 15 rebounds, it’s all good. Man, Jordan has been a beast this year. He’s now averaging a league-best 13.7 rebounds.
- Other than Jamal Crawford, who had 14 points, the bench contributed very little. Then again, other than Crawford – who played 28 minutes – no one really played enough minutes to get into a rhythm. Jared Dudley and Danny Granger each played 10 minutes, but the other two players who saw time played a combined 11 minutes. The five starters played 40, 38, 38, 40 and 25 (Darren Collison) minutes.
Next up, Saturday at Houston.