CLIPPERS BENEFIT WHEN PAUL GETS AGGRESSIVE

Chris Paul

The numbers are revealing in their own right. When Chris Paul starts off hot, the Clippers are virtually unbeatable.

In 17 games where Paul has either scored eight or more points in the first quarter or had eight or more assists in the first half, the Clippers have not lost.

17-0.

That speaks to something Head Coach Vinny Del Negro has mentioned for the better part of six months this season and almost a year and half going back to when Paul arrived in Los Angeles in December 2011. Del Negro prefers Paul to be in attack mode.

In January he said: “I think Chris has to be aggressive for us offensively. Sometimes he gets so unselfish trying to get everyone involved, when he has opportunity for him to score the ball, it’ll only open up things even more.”

After practice Tuesday, Chauncey Billups, Paul’s backcourt mate and someone the 2013 All-Star MVP often says is akin to a brother, said, “I think he kind of picks his spots. I also talk to him a lot about trying to be aggressive early because I just think that it opens up everything he’s looking for. It opens it up, maybe not at the start of the game, but once the team adjusts to you be aggressive all of those plays he wants to make will open up.”

When Paul scores eight or more points in the first the Clippers are 8-0. But it is not just about scoring the ball. It’s about asserting himself into the game aggressively as a scoring threat. They are 12-0 when he has at least eight assists in the first half (Note: he’s met both marks in the same game three times).

“It’s just being aggressive, turning the corner on pick-and-rolls, trying to get into the paint,” Billups said. “They (defenses) know when he’s trying to get in the paint he’s looking to make a pass although he finishes very well.”

Paul is 95-for-147 (64.6%) inside of 5 feet this season. As a point of comparison that’s better than fellow Western Conference All-Star guards Tony Parker (63.9%), James Harden (57.0%) and Russell Westbrook (57.1%).

Only 40 of Paul’s 95 field goals inside have come in the first half. But that’s something that may soon change. Following Sunday’s 129-97 win over Detroit, Paul, when asked about the team’s intensity level, said, “In the NBA, at times, people have a tendency to be cool and want to relax and let the game come to them. We realize that that doesn’t really work for us. We have to come out and be aggressive.”

In that game, Paul met both statistical criteria. He scored eight points in the first quarter, missing just one shot, and had six of his eight first-half assists in the second quarter when the Clippers outscored the Pistons, 38-30.

Paul’s performance early on plus his postgame comments make it sound as though he’s taking it upon himself to turn up the aggressiveness. Of course, the Clippers never lose when he does that.