Paul, Griffin trying to figure things out

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
12:26
AM PT
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Chris Paul sat in front of his locker longer than usual Thursday night.

Wearing nothing but a towel around his waist, he folded his arms and darted his head to the right and left of the bustling visitor's locker room at the Moda Center. His face was painted with a scrunched look of disgust not normally seen this early in the season.

[+] EnlargeChris Paul
AP Photo/Don RyanChris Paul, who scored 34 points and dished out 16 assists, carried the Clippers late in regulation to help force overtime.
He finally unfolded his arms, put his head down and exhaled before walking around the locker room, still trying to understand how for the second night in a row the Los Angeles Clippers lost a game they should have won when he had the ball in his hands.

These are the moments Paul has coined "winning time" for as long as he has been playing basketball, but for the second straight game the time wasn't right for Paul and the Clippers.

Paul had 34 points, 16 assists and six steals, but it wasn't enough after Paul missed the potential game-winner in regulation as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Clippers 116-112 in overtime.

But after the game as he walked around the locker room, Paul wasn't as concerned about his missed game-winner as he was about the 3-pointer that Nicolas Batum hit to send the game into overtime.

He walked over to a laptop in the locker room and watched the play over and over again before sitting back down and talking it over with teammate Stephen Jackson.

"On that 3-pointer at the end, I should have switched out on Batum," Paul said. "We should've won. We should've won. There's no question about it. You think about how we came back, and Minnesota the other night and how that stung for them. That's how it stings for us."

[+] EnlargeBlake Griffin
AP Photo/Don RyanBlake Griffin was able to play the entire game this time, but his 35 points still weren't enough to knock off the Blazers.
As Paul and Jackson talked it out, Blake Griffin came over and joined the conversation. Griffin wanted to take the blame as well. In reality, they both were at fault.

Paul should have switched over to Batum quicker instead of watching the ball, and Griffin should have stayed closer to Batum after giving him too much room on the inbounds pass. As it was, Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were bunched up together with Damian Lilard and LaMarcus Aldridge as Butum got a wide-open look for the 3-pointer.

"I got to do a better job on that last play," Griffin said. "I got to get up into Batum and make that switch a little bit harder."

While Griffin and Paul talked through the play, Jackson listened in and chimed in his thoughts. Even though he was signed less than three weeks ago and hasn't even played in the past week, Jackson has quickly become a team leader in the locker room. He's a 14-year veteran and the only player on the team with a championship ring. He also famously said, "I make love to pressure" for his clutch 3-pointers on the San Antonio Spurs.

"We have some great veteran basketball minds," Griffin said. "You learn every day."

There has to come a point, however, where the Clippers will have to stop simply learning and start winning and that day can't come soon enough for Paul.

"We lost," Paul said. "We're grown. We've been playing long enough. We're not doing moral victories anymore. We know what we should have done. We should have won."

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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