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Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Paul: Clippers need to improve in 'stretch run'

By Arash Markazi

Chris Paul never really takes a break from basketball. Even when he’s not playing, he’s watching at least one game somewhere.

He’s either watching game film on his iPad, a live game on League Pass or maybe a couple of games on his TV and laptop. He knows what every team in the league is doing, so it’s no surprise that he thinks his Los Angeles Clippers have some work to do before the playoffs begin.

“We’ve been playing pretty well but we haven’t necessarily been playing effective,” Paul said before a recent game. “Our defense has slipped a lot and that’s why we’ve been losing games. I think our intensity is there. We just have to be there earlier. Right now, we’re a step slow on things. We’re catching stuff a second late. We have to be there earlier. During our 17-game winning streak our defense wasn’t always great but when you win it covers everything up.”

Paul, who is close friends with LeBron James, has kept an eye Miami Heat’s 23-game winning streak and has also watched the Denver Nuggets’ 13-game winning streak. He remembers the way the Clippers played during their 17-game winning streak earlier in the season and thinks the Clippers can reclaim some of the magic during the team’s final 15 games of the season as they try to lock up a top-three seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

“What we were doing was pretty effective,” Paul said. “As we’ve been saying all year, every game we play against another team is a big game for them and we have to approach it like that. When teams beat us, you can hear them and see them excited. At some point we got to a point where we expected to beat everyone. That’s not a bad thing but at the same time we’ve got to want it.”

For whatever reason, the Clippers’ haven’t wanted it enough against the top teams in the league, especially teams in the West. The Clippers are 0-6 against teams seeded sixth or higher in the West since Jan. 14.

“We know who we’re capable of beating,” Paul said. “It doesn’t matter if you beat everybody; it’s all about playing right for the playoffs. There were probably a few guys on our team who have never experienced that as far as being one of the top teams and having everyone gunning for you. I think for us it’s been an experience in itself and we have to keep getting better.”

With 15 games left in the season, Paul would like to see the Clippers get on another winning streak heading into the playoffs and start playing the same way they did when they put together their last long winning streak.

“This is the stretch run right here,” Paul said. “The good thing about not necessarily playing as well as we could right now is we know we can get better. If everything was clicking, it would be like what could we do, but we know we have to get better.”