It’s been a dilemma for opposing defenses for the last month. Chris Paul or Darren Collison on the break: pick your poison.

Forced into using two 6-foot guards in the starting lineup due to injuries to shooting guards Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick, the Clippers have used the unconventional lineup to their advantage.

“They’re just both tough on both ends of the floor,” Matt Barnes said. “Darren is a scorer and tenacious on defense. Chris can do everything on the floor. I think those two together you’ve got to kind of pick your poison because one of them is going to have a bigger defender on them and we try to take advantage of that.”

For Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, the quickness advantage can negate what opponents might gain from being bigger in the backcourt.

“We create problems on the [offensive] end with the speed factor,” Rivers said. “So, we try to figure out if we feel like it’s more of an advantage to keep them out there, we’ll take the hit on the post because usually it’s unnatural for teams to do that. Golden State that was a natural thing. They post their guards anyway. But I think a lot of teams, rightly so, don’t want to change the way they play to take advantage of a smaller guard.”

It’s been unnatural for teams to win against the Clippers’ two point-guard lineup. They have won 13 of their 14 games Paul and Collison have started together. Despite their height disadvantage they have been on the court for more than 556 minutes this season and own a plus-13.0 plus-minus rating, a number that goes up to plus-17.7 since Mar. 1 when Collison began starting as the off guard.

“I just think that analyzing the games that we’ve been winning, I think me and Chris are just the ultimate competitors together,” Collison said. “We’re always there for each other. We understand that we’re small and when teams try to post us we’re not going to make it easy. We’ll fight. I think when teams post us it takes them out of their game. And then in transition you have to make up your mind whether you want to guard C.P. or you want to guard me and there are a lot of cross-matches.”

The speedy tandem has also been able to pass the baton, effectively keeping one of them of the floor at all times. It worked well in Phoenix as they combined for 43 points and countered the dual point guard backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe to lead a 17-point comeback victory in the desert.  

There is an unspoken chemistry between Paul and Collison. They were teammates four years ago in New Orleans, when Collison was an All-Rookie Team member and Paul was two years removed from a second place finish for MVP. The familiarity has helped them mesh again, this time in Collison’s first season in Los Angeles.

“I think just because we know each other so well,” Paul said. “Everybody on our team, we all have different relationships. Me and D.C. we can afford to get on each other and not take it personal. If I’m not being aggressive enough, he’ll come let me know. When we’re on the court, we talk and we argue sometimes, but we all know at the end of the day we’re just trying to win.”

With Redick’s return on the horizon, and insertion back into the starting lineup, the Collison and Paul tandem could still be a major weapon going forward. Rivers knows unequivocally that if he needs to shift the tide of a game or increase his team’s pace, he can call on the duo. It was something that he used sparingly before Paul injured his shoulder in January and Collison emerged as a pseudo-savior in his place.

The ball pressure defensively, the foot speed and the additional scoring punch proved a boon for the Clippers even after Paul returned and more so after they started sharing more time together. And it’s helped Paul in a number of ways, too.

“With Darren I think he can really pressure the ball defensively and give Chris a chance to rest a little bit more instead of always having to dog the ball and be up on everything,” Blake Griffin said. “Hopefully, if we do get J.J. [Redick] back we can use what we saw with Darren to kind of change some things up with the second unit.”

And, of course, they’ll still likely see time together as well.

“A lot of times the guy that’s supposed to be guarding C.P. is guarding me and vice versa,” Collison said. “So, in transition when they want to switch they’re too late. It’s been working thus far. It’s been a good thing for us.” 

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