NEWS OF THE MORNING
Game belongs to CP3 | LeBron focused on title, not MVP | Wall and Beal lead young Wizards past Pacers | Spurs look to their bench for boost | Hibbert’s teammates fed up, need more from All-Star big man
No. 1: CP3 answers the bell, silences his critics in opener — Silence. That’s what Chris Paul did to his critics in Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ conference semifinal in Oklahoma City Monday night. Folks who questioned whether or not he was ready to play through whatever pain he’s experienced with a sore hamstring and aching thumb found out early, and often, that he was not going to be denied. And a determined Paul, with all that he has been through recently, is still a force to be reckoned with in these playoffs. Bill Plaschke of the The Los Angeles Times explains:
Chris Paul entered this postseason famous for a ring he doesn’t have, a city he doesn’t own, and a television commercial featuring a twin brother who doesn’t exist.
Maybe that’s why, on a wind-stopping Monday night in Oklahoma City, he spent three hours shouting, “Enough.”
Enough of the talk that he’s too injured and weary to lead the Clippers to NBA greatness, as the smallest starter ducked his head and shouldered them to a stunning 122-105 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opener of their second-round series.
Enough of the idea that his sore hamstring and thumb limit him offensively, as he missed just two of 14 shots and just one of nine three-point attempts, scoring 32 points in the best pure shooting postseason game of his career.
Enough of the talk that he’s too slow defensively, as he led a swarming Clippers defense that deadened the dazzling Thunder offense into 18 turnovers, resulting in 23 points.
Enough, enough, enough of the idea that Donald Sterling has anything to do with this anymore.
Paul’s role as president of the players’ union meant he was especially stressed during the Sterling-stained opening series. He led the players in their jersey protest while wearing black socks and sleeves. Until the final quarter of Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors, he struggled throughout the series with his strength and focus, and even admitted that he was one of several Clippers who fell asleep during Sunday night’s film session here.
A day later, biting through the Thunder and its roaring college-type crowd as if they were his dangling mouthpiece, Paul made it clear that everything was different.
“Maybe with all that stuff that happened, winning that series allowed him to breathe a little bit,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers afterward.
Paul showed up in a white sleeve and white socks. He took his first shot midway through the first quarter. It was a three-point attempt. He swished. He missed his next shot moments later. He didn’t miss again until there were barely five minutes left in the third quarter. During that time, he hit jumpers against seven different Thunder defenders, and ended any last Thunder gasp early in the third quarter with a tumbling three-pointer from the corner with Russell Westbrook in his face.
“That’s what I do. That’s what I do. [Pause] That’s a lie,” said Paul with a laugh when asked about his treys. “This one will definitely go down in the history books for me. Don’t count on it for Game 2, I’ll tell you that.”