MEMPHIS - It can be hard to tell point guards not to do their primary job.
Their No. 1 task is typically to get others involved, but there are times when the Clippers need Chris Paul to look more for his own shot. That was the case Sunday against the Grizzlies, when Paul finished the first quarter with no points and ended the game as the Clippers’ leading scorer.
“I want him aggressive all the time,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “I don’t want him looking for his shot every single time down the floor, but I want him looking for the open shot every single time down the floor.”
Rivers said he told Paul to especially be more aggressive off pick-and-rolls, where the Clippers can be particularly dangerous. Rivers didn’t think that portion of the Clippers’ offense operated well Sunday, but Paul finished with 22 points, five assists and five rebounds.
Paul’s points and assists both led the team and his rebound total was second on the team in a drubbing in Memphis. He did all that without getting his first point of the game until sinking a technical foul shot with 7:26 left in the first half.
“In the first quarter, we were taking the ball out of the net,” Paul said. “I try to play in transition, find good shots. I’ve got to figure out how to be more aggressive in the first quarter.”
The Clippers trailed, 53-40, at the half. Immediately out of the break, it was Paul keeping his team within striking distance as he attacked more often and started looking to create his own shot.
After assisting on the first Clippers shot of the second half by J.J. Redick, Paul then hit two shots to turn the deficit into single digits. When the Clippers trailed, 62-49, Paul hit a 3-pointer. When they went down 70-59, he drilled a step-back jumper. With two minutes left in the quarter, Paul scored four points to bring the deficit to 78-70.
Paul took 12 of his 13 shots after the first quarter, when the Clippers were down and looking out of sync. A game that eventually got out of hand would have been a blowout much earlier without Paul’s shooting.
“That’s a tough one for a point guard, especially a guy like him who really wants to pass the ball,” Rivers said. “For us to tell him, ‘You can still (facilitate), but look at the rim more,’ is probably more difficult for him.”
Paul said the Clippers got a lot of good looks and the shots they wanted, but he was concerned with their number of attempts. The Clippers had eight fewer field goal attempts than the Grizzlies, and Paul pointed out how the Clippers were outrebounded by 20.
He said it’s on the guards to do a better job helping the big men out.
“It was one of those nights we were taking the ball out of the net, and we didn’t really get a chance to play the way we wanted,” Paul said. “The offense and defense is connected. We defend, we can play up tempo and move the ball.”
Every Paul bucket to move the deficit to single digits was answered by the Grizzlies, who’d quickly expand their lead. Rivers knows just how talented a team the Clippers played Sunday.
“I said it before the year started, ‘No one was talking about Memphis,’” Rivers said. “I said, ‘Guys, if you look at their record when they were healthy last year, they had as good a record as anybody in the league.’ But it was like no one saw that. They’re a good basketball team.”