BEST OF 2011-12:
TOP 5 GAME-WINNING PLAYS BY CHRIS PAUL
Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 4/20/12

You could argue that aside from the five games he missed with a strained left hamstring, All-Star point guard Chris Paul has made at least one so-called game-winning play in each of his 57 appearances on the floor for the Clippers during this condensed season.

Paul said Wednesday that the season's been a "blur" and that it's tough to recall everything that's happened. But at the same time, everyone who's observed him likely remembers it all; every dart to the rim as the clock was winding down; every head-turning pass to Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan for an easy dunk; or every defender that was left a little wobbled at the knees when Paul ramped up his left-right-left crossover into a step-back fadeaway from the elbow.

You could argue, then, that the list of top 5 could really be a top 50. But what fun would the memories be if we had to write everything down.

  • 5. Portland, Part 1: January 1, 2012
  • It was a bit of a welcome to L.A. and happy New Year gesture in the same moment. After dropping their home opener and falling below .500 for the only time this season, the Clippers and Trail Blazers were locked in a back-and-forth battle over the final five minutes. Portland was within four after overcoming a 17-point deficit and the teams alternated empty possessions on five trips down the floor. With 29 seconds left, LaMarcus Aldridge scored on a 6-footer over DeAndre Jordan. That's when Paul took the ball and the game over.

    He came around a pick from Jordan, splitting two defenders, and glided into the paint with the long-armed Aldridge over his left shoulder. He gathered with two hands, took one step, and flipped up a right-handed bank shot from 5 feet before Aldridge could get to it.

    The play gave the Clippers a 92-88 lead with nine seconds on the clock, but Paul wasn't done. The Trail Blazers called timeout and inbounded the ball to hot-shooting Jamal Crawford, who teamed with Nicolas Batum to lead the comeback, and has the former Sixth Man of the Year dribbled to his left to attempt a 3-pointer, Paul tied him up, forcing a jump ball. Of course, giving up 6 inches, Paul still won the tip, effectively icing his first home win as the Clippers closer. More: Paul at his best during 'winning time'

  • 4. Detroit Didn't Have a Chance: March 18, 2012
  • From the outside, the Clippers were allegedly falling apart. Amidst their brutal March schedule, fatigue and frustration intersected as they proceeded to lose three of their first four games in a weeklong home stand. But the Clippers bounced back to win a Saturday afternoon game against the Rockets, one where Chris Paul did what Chris Paul has done all year, dominate the game at "winning time." The following day, taking on a Pistons team that had won 12 of 19 games since early February, Paul topped himself again.

    The Pistons allowed a fourth-quarter lead to evaporate and after the game went to overtime Paul scored seven of the first nine Clipper points. But Detroit refused to go away, a pair of baskets and two Greg Monroe free throws put the Pistons up 82-81 with 31 seconds remaining. He worked his way around a Griffin screen, weaved past Brandon Knight, got Monroe backpedalling, and nailed a 17-footer falling down from the right free-throw line extended. The shot went down with 21.1 seconds on the clock and Paul sealed it nine seconds later, snagging a jump ball between Monroe and Caron Butler and pushing it ahead to Randy Foye for a layup.

  • 3. Portland, Part 2: March 30, 2012
  • The Clippers and Trail Blazers faced off four times this season and both of their matchups at Staples Center were decided in the final seconds by Paul. In the game J.J. Hickson, starting for the injured Aldridge (elbow), played arguably his best game of the season, including a handful of acrobatic dunks. But Hickson's outstanding performance was one-upped on the Clippers' final possession.

    Paul started with the ball on the left side of the floor, guarded by Raymond Felton, and the Clippers trailing by one. Jordan set a screen about 3 feet outside of the 3-point line and Hickson switched onto Paul as he shuffled to the opposite sideline. Paul yo-yoed Hickson with a between the legs dribble then quickly went left to right on a crossover. Penetrating the right side of the lane, Paul protected the ball with his body and hit a tough right-handed layup with five seconds left, giving L.A. a 98-97 win.

    After the game Paul said he was surprised about two things: First, that Batum, a wiry forward with a wingspan that extends past 7 feet, was not guarding him when the Clippers came out of their timeout on the final possession; and second, that they didn't try to trap when Hickson switched on to him. One thing that surprised no one was that Paul, with the game on the line, came through again. More: Paul does it again

  • 2. The Philly Fade: February 10, 2012
  • A little more than a month into the season the Clippers, with a roster featuring nine new players, were forced to adapt on the fly to the season-ending loss of guard Chauncey Billups to a torn Achilles tendon. Billups' injury occurred four days prior to their meeting with the 76ers and there were still numerous questions about they would adjust without their veteran leader. But that's why you have Chris Paul.

    After the Clippers nearly threw the game away on a botched inbounds pass that led to two free throws by Lou Williams, Paul came up with a near miraculous shot over Andre Iguodala. It didn't come without a little chaos, which if nothing else, explains why Paul may very well be the best closer in the game. He remained cool on the final possession despite throwing an errant bounce pass to Griffin. Paul's All-Star buddy, dug the ball out from a scrum, flung it to Kenyon Martin at the top of the key, and as Paul said after the game saved the day.

    The play was reset out top and Paul took Iguodala, a likely All-Defensive team member, into the center of the lane, slammed on the brakes, and nailed a turn-around fadeaway that barely touched the rim on its way through the net. On his way back to bench, with the Clippers ahead 78-77 and 3.2 seconds left, Paul looked around Wells Fargo Center, nodding. More: Anatomy of a game-winner

  • 1. The Okie-Doke on OKC: April 11, 2012
  • The shot in Oklahoma City was definitively No. 1.

    Consider the way Paul's game-winner transpired. After going up by five in the final minute, the Clippers allowed Oklahoma City, the West's top team at the time, to score five points in a row to tie the game. It appeared the Clippers' come-from-behind effort from 11 points down was all but spoiled when Kevin Durant made a 3-pointer to tie things up with 32.2 seconds left, guaranteeing the Thunder would get a final crack at winning the game.

    As the clock ticked below six seconds to shoot on the Clippers' next possession, it appeared Paul may have waited too long to make his move to the basket. He made a quick dart to his right from the "E" in the Thunder's midcourt logo to get past Thabo Sefolosha. Then with Kendrick Perkins trying to corral him, Paul drifted further right before cutting hard between Perkins and Russell Westbrook, making a slight pass fake to his right. Serge Ibaka, the league's leader in blocked shots per game, arrived at the rim to contest the shot, but Paul found a way to spin the ball up and over Ibaka for the go-ahead layup with 8.8 seconds on the clock.

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    Best of 2011-12: "Top 5 Road Victories" | Best of 2011-12: "Top 5 Home Victories"
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