117 points. 48.8 percent shooting. 13-of-31 from beyond the arc. And 31 assists on 41 made baskets.
The Clippers’ point guard missed the Western Conference Semifinals’ opener after straining his left hamstring in Saturday’s instant classic Game 7 triumph over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. It speaks even louder volumes of Paul’s performance last weekend, naturally, that he was unfit to play 48 hours later. Muscles tighten and adrenaline wanes once competition ceases, but that hardly means the extra legend his 27-point, six-assist masterpiece now carries as a result of Monday’s absence is any less warranted.
And based on Blake Griffin’s play without his superstar running mate in Game 1, Paul might be afforded even more of it. Championships, after all, have a way of magnifying drama endured on the road to getting them.
The 6’10, 251 pounder notched his third triple-double of the postseason against Houston, scoring 26 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, and dishing 13 assists while playing Los Angeles’ closest thing to a point guard as Paul barked instructions from the sideline. Griffin set the table for his team all game long in the varied and nuanced manner normally reserved for the game’s elite playmakers.
He took outlets on a run and attacked a scrambled defense with the abandon of Russell Westbrook:
Exhibited creative flare a la Stephen Curry:
And manipulated defenders from the block like LeBron James:
But just as important as the highlight-worthy plays were the many that aren’t.
Doing his best Paul impression in guiding the Clippers to a dominant second half, Griffin had 10 points, eight rebounds, and an almost unfathomable 10 assists throughout the game’s final 24 minutes. After the win, a glowing Rivers explained that the 26 year-old executed Los Angeles’ adjusted game plan to perfection – almost too well, in fact.