PAUL AT HIS BEST AGAINST ‘YOUNGER’ GUARDS

Chris Paul has been is usual self over the past five games, racking up assists and steals and scoring when the situation called for it. He has also taken it to some of the league’s brightest young point guards in the league.

Paul, 28, has been matched up with Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and rookie Trey Burke in the eight days. They are all former first round picks, all 26 or younger and all have fewer than four years in the league.

Ever the savvy veteran, Paul, has not only outplayed them, averaging 22.0 points, 12.0 assists and 3.8 steals, but shut them down. All five players scored lower than their season averages with Paul defending them and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin serving as backstops for Paul’s ball pressure.

“It’s not just me,” Paul said. “I tell the bigs that it’s a point-guard driven league and we’re all good in the ball screen. I’ve done the ball screen my entire career so I know what I don’t like defenders to do. So, going into every game, especially when I’m playing against some of the elite point guards, I tell the guys on the team, ‘I’m never worried about the offensive end.’

“My priority is the defensive end and trying to make sure these guys don’t get going.”

In the five games against Lawson, Rubio, Curry, Lillard and Burke, Paul has held them to a combined 10.8 points on 30.9 percent shooting. Lillard and Curry entered as two of the most talked about guards in the NBA, and hottest 3-point shooters. They finished the Paul tilt-a-whirl going 4-for-11 from distance and 9-for-29 overall. Neither of them scored at all in the first quarter.

On Saturday, Burke, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 Draft, missed his first five shots and had six turnovers in his first regular-season meeting with Paul.

“It was exciting,” Burke said. “He is one of, if not the best point guard in the league. It was a match up that I was looking forward to it. Obviously, he came out on top and I felt like he made some plays down the stretch and I made some bad plays down the stretch.”

Paul, who entered the league in the same draft class as Nets star Deron Williams in 2005, remembers when he was on the other side of it, playing against guys he looked up to as a young player.

“It’s funny because I think about a lot of the other guards in the league and I’m actually one of the elder statesmen now,” Paul said. “It’s crazy because it sort of takes me back to when me and D-Will (Williams) were the younger guys and there were the Allen Iversons, the J-Kidds (Jason Kidd), the Baron Davis’ and guys like that. You’ve just got to be ready because you know they’re coming for them.”

And when the young guards have come for Paul, he’s been more than ready, he’s been at his best.