They would be in a one- or two-possession game late and somehow, some way, find a way to lose it at the end. These were games where they held the lead in the fourth quarter and slowly saw it slip away as Paul could do nothing but try to coach from the bench. With Paul back on the floor, however, the Clippers found a way to win and beat the New York Knicks, 102-88.
It was easily the Clippers' most impressive victory on what has been an otherwise forgettable 3-4 Grammy road trip. Perhaps the best thing that has come out of the trip besides Sunday's win is the fact that Paul, Chauncey Billups and the rest of the injured Clippers are finally back on the floor again as the team wraps up their road trip Monday night in Philadelphia.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
CP3 is back
Sure, Paul’s first game back from his bruised right kneecap was Friday night against the Miami Heat, but after scoring only 3 points on 1-of-5 shooting with three turnovers in 20 minutes, you can basically call that a warmup for his game on Sunday. Paul looked like his old self again as he had 25 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds and got the Clippers off to a solid start as he had 9 points on 3-of-4 shooting, including hitting 2 3-pointers, in the first quarter. Paul was also the difference late in the game as he scored seven points in the fourth quarter and made one key shot after another to help seal the win for the Clippers.
A Tribe Called Bench
It was only fitting that a trip to New York would also bring the return of “A Tribe Called Bench.” After taking a hiatus with so many bench players thrust into starting roles, the band was finally back together in Madison Square Garden. More importantly, the second unit backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford was finally back together again and causing nightmares for opposing benches. Crawford finished with 27 points on 12-of-22 shooting while Bledsoe had 13 points, 3 assists and 4 rebounds. As good as Bledsoe was in relief of Paul for a dozen games, Sunday was a perfect example of why he is much better in his role of spark plug off the bench who plays about 18-20 minutes per game.
Still not healthy
The big storyline heading into Friday’s game against the Miami Heat was that the Clippers were finally fully healthy for this first time this season. The problem, is Grant Hill didn’t play on Friday with knee issues (he played 15 minutes on Sunday) and against the Knicks, Caron Butler was sidelined for the second half and only played 12 minutes with a sore lower back. Butler will likely be a game-time decision Monday at Philadelphia, but the Clippers’ “healthy” run didn’t last very long. Not that they looked particularly great on Friday in Miami when they were all available to play.