In less than 12 minutes on the floor, Chris Paul reminded everyone in the NBA that he is still the best point guard in the league.
On Monday night, the Los Angeles Clippers were on fire, and the Oklahoma City Thunder got burned 122-105. The Clippers did not coyly steal Game 1; they forcefully snatched it, punched the Thunder in the mouth and left their victims in the fetal position.
Paul led the charge from the opening tip and put on a clinic on how to get to a spot and knock down a shot.
By the time the first 12 minutes were over, Paul had 17 points, and the Clippers were up by 14 points. “CP3” was perfect from beyond the arc and nearly perfect from the field: he had one missed shot. By the time halftime rolled around, the Clippers had led by as many as 24 points, and Paul had converted six three-pointers.
Also, the Clippers’ point guard and emotional leader had six assists to go along with his impressive point total. With Paul scoring and distributing, the Clippers entered the locker room with a healthy 17-point lead despite Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining for 32 points on nearly 60 percent shooting from the field.
Seemingly, Durant and Westbrook could not do enough to match the Clippers’ team attack. At that point, the Clippers had nine players with at least one field goal, while the Thunder only had five players that could claim a bucket.
In the second half, the Thunder made a run, but Paul was unstoppable.
Showing no signs of a hamstring injury that plagued the point guard in the opening round of the postseason, Paul continued his hot shooting in the second half. By the time the Clippers’ captain finally missed in the second half, he had converted eight three pointers in a row and already had 30 points.
At that point, the Clippers led by 23 points and five minutes remained in the third quarter.
Soon after, Thunder coach Scott Brooks desperately opted to intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan. Theoretically, the strategy worked, as Jordan missed seven of his eight foul shots during the stretch. The healthy lead allowed Clippers coach Doc Rivers to be patient with the misses, but eventually, he took Jordan out.
Still, the Clippers led big, and the Thunder showed no signs of making a comeback. After three quarters, the home team trailed by 26 points.
For the final 12 minutes, Paul, who finished with 32 points and 10 assists, grabbed a seat alongside fellow starters J.J. Redick, Blake Griffin and Jordan to comfortably watched the Clippers’ bench seal the victory.
If the opening game of a series is considered a statement game, Paul and the Clippers made quite the statement on Monday night.