PAUL PLAYS THROUGH PAIN, AGAIN, LEADS CLIPPERS
SALT LAKE CITY – It was not long after he helped push the Clippers past the Utah Jazz for a tenth win in a row Friday that Chris Paul was sliding on a neoprene toe protector and dipping his sore left ankle into a yellow bucket of ice.
The ice and the grimace Paul showed as the freezing water touched his skin has become commonplace for the seven-time All-Star this season.
At times lately, he looks like he’s being held together by tape and bandages. His right shoulder, which was separated on Jan. 3 costing him 18 games, is still covered by a thick dimpled pad. His right thumb, which he sprained in Memphis the game before the Clippers could not stop winning, is still wrapped in tape. His groin is sore, his hip and now his ankle.
He suffered the slight ankle sprain during the Clippers’ game-defining third quarter when he scored or assisted on six of eight baskets, leading a 17-2 run to close the period and erase a deficit that was once as large as 13. After getting to the rim, Paul converted a layup and stepped awkwardly on the basket stanchion as he turned to go back on defense.
“Me and J.P. (Clippers trainer Jasen Powell) when we came back here this was just fluke,” Paul said, shaking his head before continuing. “I don’t get it. But I’ll be alright.”
Paul has spent so much time with Powell this season, the veteran trainer might think of charging the Clippers’ all-world point guard by the hour. Paul, while frustrated at times, has battled through it. His mantra this season, more so than even his usually poignant “winning time,” has been “find a way.” And Paul and the Clippers usually do.
On Friday they were lethargic defensively and struggled to score the ball. But Paul helped orchestrate a comeback.
“I thought Chris started being more aggressive,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I think sometimes he wants to be the point guard, but tonight we needed his scoring. And I thought he did a great job with that.”
Paul scored 18 points and added seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. He went 8-for-12 from the field a game after missing 10 of his 15 shots against the Warriors. Most of all, Paul’s toughness was on display.
“He’s tough,” Matt Barnes said. “He’s one of those guys that never backs down from a challenge.”
Paul went to the locker room twice with Powell during the game to get the ankle taped and even after limping for a few moments when the injury occurred he stayed in the game and found Willie Green for a 3-pointer a possession later. When Utah made a late push, Paul made an 8-foot runner to help slow things down. He would deal with the physical pain later.
“I’ve seen him go through various amounts of bumps and bruises,” said his friend Green, who scored 12 points giving him 25 in the past two games combined. “There were times where I’ve told him, ‘Don’t play today.’ And he still played and he still went out and performed and led us to victories.
“I can’t say enough about Chris and his heart and his desire to win and be the best and we just follow his lead.”