Chris Paul


MEMPHIS – Chris Paul’s closing act at the end of games may need to be rebranded an encore.

As opposed to Paul simply mastering the final minutes, there was a sense Friday after practice at FedEx Forum that the Clippers’ all-world point guard may be looking to be more aggressive from the opening tip.

“I’ve just got to be more aggressive,” Paul said. “I played 30-something minutes and didn’t shoot one free throw.”

Paul had eight points in Game 3 with four assists and five turnovers. He missed seven of his 11 shots. Moreover, he went without an assist in the first half and did not shoot a free throw in 35 minutes. But it was not necessarily the statistical drop off from his sublime first two games of the series as it was an approach that may have been a little more passive.

Asked if Paul was being less aggressive to start Game 3, his backcourt mate Chauncey Billups said: “Maybe a little. I think we tried to establish Blake [Griffin] a lot early in the game, knowing they were going to go at [Zach Randolph]. So, we wanted to establish Blake and maybe get a foul or two.

“Maybe he was less aggressive trying to go to Blake. It was just a part of the game plan and it’s tough to get it back going when you’re not being aggressive.”

The benefits between Paul asserting himself into the opening 12 minutes versus waiting to take over in the fourth quarter have been discussed through much of Paul’s two years with the Clippers. And while he has most often found a balance between both, his 14 postseason games with the team have somewhat proven otherwise.

In his six playoff wins as a member of the Clippers, Paul has scored 7.8 points per game with 5.3 assists per game in the first half. Those numbers fall to 6.5 points and 3.6 assists in their eight losses.

“It makes it easier for everybody when he’s aggressive,” Billups said. “And that doesn’t mean scoring or shooting that just means being aggressive, getting in there and drawing a double team and kicking [out].”

This season the Clippers lost just once when Paul had eight or more assists in the first half and Paul knows he has to get back to playing with that same aggressiveness in the early going. He just isn’t sure what that will mean come Saturday.

“I don’t know,” Paul said when asked how he’ll be more aggressive. “I’ve just got to wait and see. I don’t ever know what’s going to happen before I get into a game.”

Grizzlies guard and two-time NBA All-Defensive Team member Tony Allen spent a good deal of time guarding Paul in Game 3. “We’re just trying to make it difficult on him as much as possible,” Allen said. “You’ve got to scheme for him and have got to stick to it.”

Allen, Quincy Pondexter, Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince all spent time on Paul on Thursday and present different challenges defensively. But after Memphis finished practice Friday they seemed to have an inkling of what Paul intended to do in Game 4.

“We definitely know he is going to come in aggressive tomorrow,” Allen said. “We know all of those guys are going to come in aggressive.”

It doesn’t have quite the ring to it as Chris Paul, closer. But Chris Paul, opener, may be exactly what the Clippers need.

“When he’s aggressive we’re at our best and we’re going to make an effort to make him to be aggressive in games,” Billups added. “I think it just helps everybody out.”


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