Thursday, January 9, 2014
Clippers figuring out how to play together without Paul
By Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul's presence is still felt at Los Angeles Clippers games as he walks around the locker room pregame, talking to his teammates, during games as he sits next to the assistant coaches and yells out instructions, and after games, as he leaves with his young son, "Little Chris," by his side.
The Clippers picked up their third win in the past four games without Chris Paul.
Paul's presence is everywhere but on the court right now, but the Clippers -- at least in the short term -- are doing just fine without their leader.
They beat the Boston Celtics on Wednesday for their second straight win without Paul and third in their past four games without him. It's a small sample size, but life without Paul might not be as bad as expected for the Clippers.
"I'm very encouraged," coach Doc Rivers said. "There's some things we have to clean up. I need to do a better job figuring out the second unit. I've got to keep a couple stars on with both groups. With Chris out, and J.J. [Redick], it changes a little bit. Whenever you sub now, the guys you're usually subbing are already in. I thought they didn't have enough scoring in that one stretch in the second quarter, and I thought that hurt us."
Rivers' issues with the second team might get shored up in the coming days with Redick expected to return to the lineup Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time in six weeks and Reggie Bullock expected to be back soon after that for the first time in a month.
Both players were key members of the Clippers' second team and will provide a much-needed spark to a group that produced 12 points and nine rebounds from two players on Wednesday. Some help may even come from outside sources with the Clippers bringing in Hedo Turkoglu for a workout and possibly making an offer to Andrew Bynum.
Even without Paul, Redick and Bullock, the Clippers are figuring out a way to play together.
"I think we kind of figured this out as we play; a lot of guys scoring double figures, we have to run a transition more, we have to attack a little bit more," Clippers forward Jared Dudley said. "CP kind of has the ball in his hands a lot, he's the quarterback. When he's not there, you know we kind of do more spread formation where you get the ball to Blake [Griffin] down low, let him dominate, get out in transition, let Jamal [Crawford] go, so we can kind of pick and choose our shots better."
The Clippers' offense has surprisingly not missed a beat over the past two games without Paul. The Clippers have 56 assists in their 71 field goals in those games, 14 of those assists coming from Griffin.
"I think we executed our offense extremely well," Griffin said. "You know, catching the ball off a pick-and-roll, if you notice, [DeAndre Jordan] is diving hard and that creates so much attention inside that you know, you can kind of pick and choose guys on the perimeter and with Dudley shooting the ball the way he is, Jamal has been shooting well, [Darren Collison] shot well, and was really on fire that first game on Monday. So other than guys making shots, I think it's our execution offensively without the ball."
While everyone will be talking about Griffin's dunk over Kris Humphries in the third quarter of the game, putting Humphries in the same category as Timofey Mozgov and Kendrick Perkins, Griffin's game was really the story. He played just under 42 minutes and finished with 29 points, six rebounds and a season-high eight assists. It was the kind of well-rounded game the Clippers will need to get from him in Paul's absence.
"Blake just needs to be Blake. He doesn't need to change at all," Rivers said. "Blake's been great, we've just got to make sure we get him the ball in the right spots, but we haven't changed much. We threw it to Blake at the elbows a little bit more because he's such a great passer, and at times, it's really nice when your big is your facilitator because there's no other help guy. But other than that, I don't want anybody to do anything different."