“We tried to keep him from scoring as much as we could,” Carlesimo replied to reporters in Los Angeles.
It didn’t work.
Paul, who was held scoreless in the fourth quarter of Brooklyn’s 86-76 victory over Los Angeles on Nov. 23, erupted for 17 of his game-high 29 points in the final period on Saturday night, and the Clippers topped the Nets, 101-95, at Staples Center. Paul had 11 of his team’s final 13 points -- including their last seven -- as the Clippers closed the game on an 11-5 run.
Paul, who went 12-for-13 from the free-throw stripe and added 11 assists, improved to 5-14 lifetime against Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams. Williams finished with 18 points and nine assists and shot 6-for-16 from the field.
Paul hit a 20-footer to give the Clippers a 92-90 lead with 2:03 left. Williams responded by missing a 3-pointer 13 seconds later. The Nets point guard then threw a careless pass to Gerald Wallace that was intercepted by Jamal Crawford, and Crawford went in for an uncontested layup to make it 94-90 with 48 seconds remaining.
Joe Johnson got inside to bring the Nets within two, but Paul countered with an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Clippers a five-point cushion with 22 seconds left, and that was it.
The Nets (40-29), who played three great quarters only to be outscored 31-20 in the fourth, dropped to 2-1 on their eight-game circus road trip, 11-15 against Western Conference opponents and 16-25 vs. .500-or-better teams (at time of game played).
Wallace played his best quarter of the season, scoring 13 points in the third -- or nearly five more than his full-game season average of 8.2. Brook Lopez had 18 points, while Reggie Evans added seven points and 16 rebounds. Lopez and Evans helped limit Blake Griffin to 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Still, the Clippers prevailed, in large part because they turned 15 Nets turnovers into 23 points at the other end.
Kris Humphries, who had sat out the last seven games after being pulled from the rotation, went scoreless in 10 minutes, but Carlesimo liked the way he played. Carlesimo elected to play Humphries over Mirza Teletovic because of Humphries’ previous success against Griffin and Carlesimo wanted to get him back into the mix.
Johnson, who finished just 6-for-18 from the field and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, suffered a left quadriceps contusion with 8:44 remaining in the third quarter. He headed to the locker room before returning and finishing out the game. But Johnson, 14-for-41 from the field in his last three games, looked bothered by the injury, and his availability for Sunday night’s game in Phoenix against the Suns seems uncertain.
“Joe took a shot. We were basically playing because we felt that his leg or whatever he has was gonna tighten up so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do,” Carlesimo said.