The story will be Chris Paul, as well as it should be.
As the Los Angeles Clippers walked off the court after a 119-112 comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, Clippers players and coaches smiled and hugged each other as they went back to the locker room to check on their fallen leader, who was wearing a sling after suffering a separated right shoulder.
The injury is expected to keep Paul sidelined three to five weeks, Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the game.
Paul was knocked out of the game and taken to the locker room after being fouled by Mavericks guard Monta Ellis with 6 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was a big win, one of the Clippers’ biggest on the road this season, but the health of their All-Star point guard will always be more important than a single victory. While Paul will be reevaluated Saturday, the importance of Friday’s win can’t be understated.
The Clippers were down by as many as 13 points -- and by seven with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter -- but outscored the Mavericks 16-2 to finish the game, locking things down without their leader and closer on the court.
How it happened: After giving up 70 points in the first half, the Clippers tightened up their defense, holding Dallas to 31.6 percent from the field and just 17 points in the third quarter. The ultimate difference was the final four minutes, as the Clippers outscored the Mavericks 16-2 to finish the game, with Blake Griffin scoring nine in the final period.
What it means: It means the Clippers got a big road win and were able to come back without Paul on the court. Los Angeles needed just such a victory away from home after dropping back-to-back games at Golden State and Portland in late December -- and was able to get it done without Paul for much of the second half.
Hits: DeAndre Jordan had a career-high 25 points to go along with 18 rebounds while Griffin had 25 points and 15 rebounds. Darren Collison, in his first game back at Dallas since leaving in the offseason, had a season-high 20 points and four assists.
Misses: The Clippers haven’t been a completely healthy team to start the season, but their trio of captains had done a good job of staying on the court entering Friday night’s game against Dallas. Paul, Griffin and Jordan had just missed one game among them -- when Paul sat out a contest against Sacramento with a strained right hamstring.
The Clippers must now cope with the fact that Paul could be out for more than a month; they will have to lean on Collison as a starter in his absence.
Stat of the game: Griffin’s free throws are almost a non-issue now. He was 11-of-13 Friday after shooting almost 77 percent from the line in December. He is shooting nearly 70 percent from the charity stripe this season.
Up next: The Clippers fly to San Antonio to play the Spurs in the second half of the Texas two-step. The Clippers blew out the Spurs 115-92 in Los Angeles last month -- the largest margin of victory over San Antonio in Clippers history and easily the Clippers’ biggest win of the season. Beating the Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday would be even bigger.