LOS ANGELES–Chris Paul. Closer.
The superstar point guard, who has made finishing plays late in games look routine, did it again with the Clippers trailing by one. He dribbled down the clock and jetted around Portland’s J.J. Hickson after a switch on a pick and roll for a tough right-handed layup with five seconds to go.
“What I thought they were going to do, is I thought they might trap,” Paul said. “But as I saw Raymond Felton go away, I saw an opportunity there and I just tried to attack and get to the rim.”
It was reminiscent of a play he made nearly three months ago, against a Trail Blazers team that is similar by name only, when he swooped into the lane for a layup over LaMarcus Aldridge to put the Clippers up four. Aldridge wasn’t there Friday, missing the game with a strained left elbow, but it mattered little to Paul.
Asked how many more times he’ll have to deliver for his team, Paul somewhat matter-of-factly said, “As many as it takes.”
He continued by saying the Clippers’ collective effort won the game, including a key hoop by Caron Butler and a defensive stop after Paul’s layup. But it was still Paul who was the catalyst for everything.
He scored or assisted on the final six baskets for L.A., had 20 points and 14 assists, giving him 29 helpers in the last two games, and totaled four steals. The epitome of Paul’s greatness came not necessarily with the offensive fireworks down the stretch, but on a play the helped the Clippers turn around a six-point deficit in the last four minutes.
With help from Blake Griffin, Paul trapped Felton near half court and badgered the Portland guard into an offensive foul. The play came on the heels of two made free throws from Griffin and led to a Portland timeout.
There are all-around players and there are do-it-all players, Paul seemingly is both. He’s secured wins with his shooting in Philadelphia, Houston, and Portland to name a few. He’s done it with his passing and his defensive toughness and even forced a jump ball in back-to-back close games—winning both.
In the waning seconds Friday, the Trail Blazers had one last shot to put the Clippers away. Interim head coach Kaleb Canales drew up a play for Jamal Crawford, who had given Portland the lead a possession earlier with a rainbow jumper over Randy Foye, but the plan was foiled by who else but Paul.
“The play was drawn up for Jamal, but Chris took him out of it,” Hickson said.
Paul’s shot will be remembered, but he closed the game five seconds later.
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