Posts Tagged ‘Houston’

Paul’s MVP Signifies Something Greater for Clips

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HOUSTON – The moment was Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers winning All-Star MVP on Sunday night, getting 20 points, 15 assists and four steals in the West’s 143-138 victory at Toyota Center and then getting eight of 12 votes for the top individual award.

In other news, the moment doesn’t matter.

It was fun and even a little historic, Paul becoming the first Clippers player since Randy Smith of the franchise’s Buffalo Braves era to grab an MVP at the midseason showcase. But the best sign about the Clippers at the break is that they have a chance to render an award from an exhibition game close to meaningless. They don’t need Paul beating out Kobe Bryant (two votes) and Kevin Durant (one each) for a credibility boost. The Clippers have the same Paul to thank for that, the way he moved an entire franchise forward just by signaling his intention to stay long term if management brought him in from New Orleans.

Paul is entirely a big-picture topic, down to how he has successfully muted any potential distraction over his free-agent future by strongly indicating at the start of the season he would re-sign in the summer 2013. He is leadership and superstar play.

And now there is this: On the same weekend he was winning MVP honors and Blake Griffin was putting together a dunk highlight reel en route to 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting, sources said the Clippers are not expected to make a deal before the Thursday trade deadline. Certainly not a major one, of the Kevin Garnett variety, as has been speculated.

That could obviously change – they fell into Nick Young at the 2012 deadline when the Nuggets and Wizards needed a third team to complete the Nene-JaVale McGee exchange. But every indication at the moment is that the Clippers are moving forward with who they have.

Their best player had already re-established himself as the premier point guard in the game, whether or not he played well Sunday. That Paul did adds another positive layer to the season, though, and there is never anything wrong with that around a franchise that for too many years had been dragging itself through the gloom. Having an All-Star MVP means something more to them.

“Pretty special, pretty special,” Paul said afterward. “It’s something I’ve never done. And it’s something that definitely coming into the game I wasn’t trying to achieve or thinking that it might even be possible. I told KD [Durant] early in the first quarter, I said, ‘Man, if they score anything, you run. I’ll get you the ball. You score. I want to be the one to give it to you.’ In games like this, it’s so up-tempo and fast-paced, a guy like me that’s a facilitator, I enjoy [it].”

It was a good moment, even if it didn’t matter. One of many that have come this season for Paul and the Clippers. Possibly, they hope, one that will be pushed to the background by what comes next.

Grit and grind one more time?

MEMPHIS – The Thunder beat up the Grizzlies and then the Grizzlies beat up themselves.

“We got embarrassed,” said Mike Conley.

“We didn’t have it,” said Shane Battier. “The ubiquitous ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ is, we didn’t have it.”

So it’s been a fun ride, but now the Grizzlies are at the edge of the cliff.

That’s how everyone sees it.

Everyone, that is, except the Grizzlies.

“The series is not over,” said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. “I’m sure a lot of you guys are writing about it being over. I still believe in my team. I’m sure we’ll come back and regroup … and be ready.”

“He says this is where we find out who we are,” said Conley. “Find out the kind of people we are. What kind of players we are. Because you don’t know until your back is against the wall, and everything is up for grabs. This will be a good test for us.”

The Grizzlies, down 3-2 in the best-of-seven, will have to be ready for Game 6 on Friday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) with much more enthusiasm and energy than they could summon for Game 5. Whether it was the product of a physical and emotional hangover from the triple-overtime Game 4 or a surge in confidence by the Thunder, for the first time in the series there was a clear difference between the two teams.

The Grizzlies insist that it’s not the Thunder defense that’s been the difference, but their own lack of aggressiveness at going to the basket and finishing. They missed 18 layups in Game 5

“We missed shots. I don’t think it’s nothing special they’re doing,” said Zach Randolph, who has shot just 22-for-69 in the last four games.

Through the first four games, the Grizzlies had actually outscored the Thunder by two cumulative points and dominated OKC on the offensive glass. But Game 5 was a complete collapse. Now the Grizzlies face the challenge of proving that they belong for the first time since the playoffs began a month ago.

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