May 06, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs: Paul, Clippers open vs Thunder in convincing fashion

Clippers 122, Thunder 105
Kevin Durant: 25 points (9-19 FG,) 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Chris Paul: 32 points (12-14 FG, 8-9 3PT,) 2 rebounds, 10 assists

Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers managed to plow through the Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a physically and emotionally draining seven game series. After trudging through the  Dubs and the controversy that arose when Clippers owner Donald Sterling made extremely controversial racial remarks, it was easy to expect that the physical and emotional ware and tare of the past few weeks would lead to a letdown for the Clippers in game one of their second round series with the Thunder.

Chris Paul and company proved this notion to be false, as they steamrolled Oklahoma City Monday night in Chesapeake Bay Arena 122-105, behind Chris Paul's aggressive and spectacular performance. Paul was in his finest form, beautifully orchestrating the Clippers half court attack, that featured a crispness that simply overwhelmed the OKC defense.

Oklahoma City wanted no part of the Clippers in the half court, failing to execute their defensive schemes properly, leading to open range on the perimeter for the Clippers and ultimately the Thunder's defeat. Chris' point guard prowess was on full display, as he used a plethora of dribble moves and big time shots to hammer away at the Thunder defense.

Paul had the Clipper attack in full throttle, making the correct reads, setting up guys for excellent shots and dissecting the Thunder D time and time again. Paul had an enormous night, pouring in 32 points and 10 assists. Paul was 12-14 from the field, and drilled 8 of 9 three pointers, including 5 in the first quarter.

Paul's performance made him the first player since Michael Jordan with at least 30 points, 10 assists and 75% in a playoff game. Jordan did it in the 1991 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

His 10 dimes set up Blake Griffin to score 23 points, and played a huge role in netting JJ Redick his 12 points and Matt Barnes his 10 points as well. He set up the Clipper offense that shot 54% from the floor and 51% from behind the arc.

No, they can't rely on shooting 54% every night. Yes, it is unrealistic to think that they will connect on 51% of their three pointers on a nightly basis throughout the series, but the Clippers and more specifically Paul sent a message to the league tonight. They are deep, well coached, hungry and truly are for real in terms of being a championship contender. They are one of the fiercest competitors in the championship hunt, and are ready to feast on any team that prevents them from accomplishing their dream.

Paul was firing on all cylinders, obliterating any and everyone that Oklahoma City threw at him. He came out focused and aggressive, forcefully showcasing the talents many have been questioning due to CP3's lack of playoff success.

When many claim that CP3 is the best point guard in the league, naysayers enjoy claiming that he hasn't had the playoff success of counterparts LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. Many want to pinpoint the fact that Paul hasn't made it past the second round of the playoffs, constantly pointing to this fact as the major flaw in Paul's game.

Playoffs do define and shape legacies to an extent, but someone's complete career success shouldn't be dependent on what took place in the postseason, especially when their contributions are the main reason that team is in the playoffs.
Paul stated earlier in the playoffs that he's tired of going home early. He's tired of the postseason shortcomings and personal frustrations. These past missteps don't matter, as the league's best point guard is now being provided with his best team during his tenure in the league.

He has a top 10 player in Blake Griffin as a running mate, a completely confident and defensively dominant DeAndre Jordan, a sniper in JJ Redick, 6th man of the year in Jamal Crawford and an excellent coach in Doc Rivers. The keys have been given to Chris Paul, and things look so swell with him at the helm of this sleek yet powerful vehicle that is the Los Angeles Clippers.

Paul's focus is making sure that an early exit does not become a reality for Los Angeles. He want's the Clippers dominating his western conference foes to be the lasting image for basketball fans as the days of the NBA Playoffs dwindle down. For the last several years, the last picture of Paul that was snapped was one of him marching off the floor into another summer of anguish and disgust.

Tonight, Paul wanted to silence those that stated he would struggle to contain Westbrook. Chris wanted to hush those that yapped bout his past postseason miscues. He wanted to show the world that he's not only the league's best point guard, but one of the league's best player.

Paul carried out this duty through pure and utter dominance of the Thunder on Monday night, and he hopes this success can be sustained for the remainder of the series.

No, there is no need to overreact. It's simply just one game, and the tide of a series can change fairly quickly and surprisingly. But, it's time to show recognition to the Clippers as one of the league's deepest and most talented ball clubs.

They boast a boatload of talent, with the ability to go nearly two deep at every position. Their assault is absolutely relentless, with the most confident and skilled commander to lead them in the trenches. Paul is absolutely the mantle when it comes to point guards, as there is simply no comparison in today's league.

Those playoff shortcomings may not loom any longer, as Paul and company will look to truly pounce on OKC Wednesday, and take a 2-0 series lead heading back to Los Angeles.

The high shooting percentages the Clippers thrived off of in game one will likely vanish in the next contest, but this could be just the beginning of Chris Paul's brilliance in this series. As the chatter of him not being a superstar gets louder and louder, Paul will continue to turn up the notch on his level of dominance.

Maybe then, the doubters will be silenced, electing to appreciate the genius of the league's best point guard Chris Paul.

Impressed with Paul's start in the second round? Share thoughts and opinions with me on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and continue to support The Basketball Society. 

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