Sometimes, we forget how good Chris Paul actually is, but he was kind enough to remind us all of his penchant for success after a game-saving performance against the Utah Jazz.
On a night when Ryan Anderson led the New Orleans Hornets to a blowout victory over the Milwaukee Bucks and Corey Brewer piloted the versatile charge for the Denver Nuggets, there was Chris Paul.
The savvy floor general was quiet for most of the night, before stepping up when it mattered most. At the time, the Los Angeles Clippers were struggling to extend their winning streak three, and there was a point where it was just known that they weren't going to win.
Except they did win.
Because of Paul.
Stat Line: 14 points, nine assists, three rebounds and one steal on 50 percent shooting.
Paul didn't finish with the flashiest of stat lines, but he did finish—and allow Los Angeles to finish—in style.
When the Clippers headed into Utah, they had hoped to deal out the Jazz's third straight loss en route to dealing them their first home loss of the season.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, though, such a task would prove anything but easy. They headed into halftime down 14 points and ultimately entered the fourth quarter down 10.
To make matters worse, Paul had just eight points to go with seven assists heading into the final period, rendering him close to a non-factor.
Sure, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford both dropped points in bunches, but Utah's 23rd-ranked defense was somehow managing to nearly shut down Los Angeles' best player. How could that bode well for the Clippers and the ultimate outcome of this game?
It couldn't and, in fact, it didn't. But Paul was able to overcome the Jazz's defensive tactics and transform what was once a silent night into one filled with his personal heroics.
He scored six points and dished out two assists in the fourth, one of which dimes came late in the quarter when he found Crawford open in the corner for three to tie the game at 94.
Fast forward to the final minute of action, and Los Angeles and Utah find still themselves tied at 99 points apiece. This was when Paul went to work on the offensive offensive end.
Instinctively, he attacked the paint and hit a running layup, putting the Clippers ahead for good with less than 34 seconds remaining.
One huge block by DeAndre Jordan later, and the victory was sealed.
Admittedly, this was not the prettiest of games for the Clippers, nor was it the most flamboyant of contests for Paul. Los Angeles shot just 21 percent from three and the team was actually minus-eight with Paul on the floor.
Yet none of that mattered. It didn't matter that Paul hardly looked for this shot throughout the first three quarters. It didn't matter that the Clippers were being out-rebounded, out-gunned and simply overwhelmed in almost every measurable facet of the game.
What mattered was that they won, that they kept their winning streak alive and found themselves back atop the Pacific Division. What mattered is that Paul—despite a performance that seemingly paled in comparison to what we have come to expect—attacked when Los Angeles needed him to dial up his aggression.
Yes, Crawford and Griffin were scoring, but even on a quiet night, the Clippers don't want to put the fate of the game in anyone else's hands other than Paul's. Even in the midst of a quiescent performance, Paul is going to be the one to step up in crunch time.
He is going to be the one to try and lead his team to victory. Every time.
"That's his M.O.—set everybody up in the beginning and then at the end (play) like an assassin trying to end it all," former teammate Randy Foye (via Andrew Aragon of NBA.com) said after the game.
Foye's right, Paul essentially uses the art of deception throughout games. He plays one way for a majority of the contest, then switches gears and adjusts his mindset as the clock winds down.
And you know what? The Clippers wouldn't have it any other way.
All stats in this article are accurate as of December 4th, 2012.
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