Chris Paul knows a thing or two about New Orleans. The eight-year veteran played his first six seasons there, and the city holds a special place in his heart. It must feel bittersweet whenever he beats the Hornets, especially in NOLA. Still, Paul is a competitor first and foremost, so he had no problem dropping 16 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals en route to a 105-91 victory over his ex-ball club. It wasn’t quite the spectacle he put on against the Mavericks (33 points), but he made big plays down the stretch and the Clippers actually won this game.
Of course, he had help. The bench, which has struggled for much of the second half of the season, scored 39 points and helped spark runs in the second and fourth quarters. Also, Blake Griffin broke out of a three-game slump (10.7 points on 31.3 percent shooting) with 19 points on 6 of 12 shooting. He was aggressive looking for his shot, rolled to the rim hard and drew fouls on the Hornets’ big men. It wasn’t a great game by any means, but the Clippers got the job done, and that’s all you can ask for at this point. Next up, San Antonio on Friday. Should be a great barometer as the playoffs draw near. Onto Last Call:
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
New Orleans Hornets
MVP: Chris Paul. Paul completely controlled the game against his former team, scoring 16 points and adding nine assists, six rebounds, and four steals to that total.
X factor: The Clippers’ shooters. Usually the Clippers struggle in the three-point game, but Wednesday was different. L.A. shot 13-for-29 from three while the Hornets sunk only four of their 14 attempts.
Well that was … vengeful. Because of the Chris Paul trade, there were so many players going against their former team. Of those guys, Eric Gordon stepped up most, dropping 24 on the guys he used to call his teammates.
- Fred Katz
Anthony Davis has extremely long arms
It’s common knowledge that Davis has a freakishly long wingspan, but this photo exemplifies the effect of his arms. He’s less than an inch away from Paul’s shot (not sure if he blocked it or not; don’t think so). That, and there wasn’t any YouTube highlights from this game.
Tweet(s) of the Game
— Andrew Han (@andrewthehan) March 28, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
Andrew and Fred run the good ‘ole two-man game. Don’t get lost in Fred’s walls, like I did (they’re mesmerizing).
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Age 1; Chauncey Billups 0
Chauncey Billups checked out of the game just two minutes into the third quarter after re-aggravating his groin injury. He didn’t return. This put a slight damper on the other festivities, what with Chris Paul returning to New Orleans to face the player who he was traded for in Eric Gordon. Prior to that point, Billups had played well, knocking down four of six shots from the field (three of four from three), and the Clippers were a solid +15 in his 13 minutes of floor time.
This has been a recurring theme throughout the season for Billups – just when he appears to be finding a groove, he gets dinged up with various maladies caused by nothing more than the slow decay of time. As the great Charles Barkley has been known to say, Father Time is undefeated, and Chauncey Billups is starting to learn that the hard way.
However, as depressing as the decline of Billups has been, it may not be such a negative in the grand scheme of things. There have been times where Chris Paul inexplicably defers to Billups offensively, and he’s a major defensive liability on the wing. Overall, the Clippers defense is 7.2 points per 100 possessions better when Billups isn’t playing. On paper, Billups is a nice player to have around, but it hasn’t totally translated into on-court performance.
Shelving Billups may bring a tear to the eye of anyone who grew up with the mid-2000s Pistons, but it may be a blessing in disguise for the Clippers.
- Jeremy Conlin
Jamal’s Adventures in Wonderland
Before coming to the Clippers, Jamal Crawford’s game has never added up to me. Intuitively, if somebody is that good at creating space for himself, he should also be able to do so for other people. If Crawford can mangle a defense’s spacing with his length and handle, why can’t he dish out more than the 2.5 assists per game he’s averaging this season.
His performance tonight proves that Jamal could be more of a distributor if that was his needed function on this Clipeprs team. Going into the fourth quarter with only a two point lead (79-77), Vinny Del Negro demonstrated caution and rested both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the final frame’s opening minutes. Crawford became the default nexus of the offense and he showed how potent a decoy his shot-creating reputation can be.
Crawford started the fourth with a vintage crossover allowing him an easy pull up floater on the right side of the key. The next Clippers basket came after Crawford isolated behind the arc, captured the attention of the Hornets defense, then fired the ball to an open Eric Bledsoe who drilled a three as his wandering defender streaked back from Crawford’s side of the floor. Jamal then assisted a wide-open Barnes in the corner after a slight hesitation that drew Barnes’ defender towards the break. Clippers up 87-79.
After a timeout, the process repeated. Crawford came out and immediately dropped in a rainbow from the top of the key. On the subsequent play, Jamal started a drive down the right side of the lane, forcing Ryan Hollins’ defender to help, upon which Crawford dropped him the ball with a clear path to the hoop for a slam. Hollins converted both attempts at the free throw line after getting fouled on the dunk attempt. Clippers up 91-81.
Jamal missed a few shots after this efficient managerial streak, but that’s Jamal. Even if he shows some skill as a distributor, he’a a gunner at heart and the Clippers are better off for it. When Chris Paul is in the floor, as he normally would be for the better part of the fourth quarter, Crawford is expected to be a cold-blooded killer when his spidery hands touch the leather. And that’s exactly what Crawford returned to upon Blake Griffin and then Chris Paul’s entrances in the fourth. Crawford’s two assists to start the fourth quarter were his only two assists in 24 minutes tonight and that’s just how we like our Jamal.
- Michael Shagrin
A relatively inconsequential opponent tonight, but a monumental moment for the Clippers. With their 49th victory tonight, the Los Angeles Clippers tie the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves for the most single season wins in franchise history.
Additionally, in their fourth attempt away from home, the Clippers won their 21st road game. This ensures that Los Angeles will have a winning road record for the first time in franchise history. Neat.
- Andrew Han
What a Difference a Day Makes
Tuesday night, all the talk was that Blake Griffin wasn’t involved enough late in the game against the Mavericks. Well, Wednesday proved to be different. Griffin made two wonderful defensive plays on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter, forcing turnovers on both. In a way, the dagger tonight was as much Griffin’s steal at around the two minute marker as it was the Chris Paul basket that activated Lawler’s Law and put the Clippers ahead 101-91 with under two minutes to play.
- Fred Katz
On Nov. 26, the Hornets defeated the Clippers 105-98, making 15 3-pointers and thoroughly embarrassing the Clippers’ defense. On Wednesday, the Clippers returned the favor, making 13 3-pointers, including a flurry of four straight 3s to end the first half — highlighted by Billups’ bank-in 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left. Meanwhile, the Hornets made only four 3-pointers. Although Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson combined to go an uncharacteristic 0-for-10 on 3s, it’s encouraging to see improvement from the Clippers’ defense around the arc, one of their notable weaknesses all season.
- Jovan Buha at ESPN LA
Chris Paul’s New Orleans strip tease
Back in the Clippers’ locker room, not one of Paul’s teammates had hit the showers. Everyone was glued to the mounted flat screen, watching the Miami Heat try to preserve their 27-game winning streak against the Chicago Bulls. Aside from a few, ahem, gentlemen’s bets, no Clippers expressed a loyalty either way — but when there’s a sexy event happening in your industry, it’s impossible not to be captivated.
“You’re not rooting for anyone,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “It’s just exciting basketball.”
Paul ambled over to his locker at the far end of the room, where he was swarmed by local media. It’s been 15 months since the Hornets dealt their franchise player to Los Angeles, but there’s still mutual allegiance between Paul and New Orleans.
“Just being here, seeing all these familiar faces, I miss it,” Paul said. “No question about it. I miss the people here. My pastor was sitting on the baseline. My old chef, my barber, everybody. This is my family.”
The Clippers came into New Orleans still smarting from their previous night’s overtime loss in Dallas. The team didn’t play poorly against the Mavericks. The process was fairly clean, but the results simply weren’t there.
- Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop