x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Clippers believe in Chris Paul and he delivers

No Blake Griffin, no problem for the Los Angeles Clippers, who still had Chris Paul to put them a game away from advancing in the NBA play-offs.

Blake Griffin, left, and Chris Paul celebrate the Los Angeles Cippers victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Blake Griffin, left, and Chris Paul celebrate the Los Angeles Cippers victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

LOS ANGELES // One day after Chris Paul's 27th birthday, the All-Star point guard and his Los Angeles Clippers showed they are growing up splendidly together.

Sure, it is not happening without growing pains during a brutal series with the Memphis Grizzlies.

After surviving overtime in their toughest test yet, Paul and his teammates are on the verge of an achievement with better rewards than candles and cake.

Paul scored eight of his 27 points in a dynamic overtime performance, and the Clippers moved to the verge of their second play-off series victory in 36 years with a 101-97 win over Memphis on Monday night, taking a 3-1 series lead.

Game 5 is Thursday morning, 3.30am UAE time, in Memphis, with Game 6 back at Staples Center on Saturday if the Clippers cannot close it out.

Paul's late-game poise starred in another chapter of a highly entertaining series that has seen four games decided by a total of 15 points.

"It's good TV, man, get the ratings up," Paul said.

"We don't want any blowouts. There's a reason we finished 4-5 [in the Western Conference standings] with one game between us. We have a lot of competitive guys that don't give up in this series. We have two teams that are going to fight until the end."

The Clippers have had their fair share of setbacks and they looked to be enduring another one after they blew a 10-point lead late in regulation time, but Paul would not allow it, even with Blake Griffin fouling out midway through overtime.

Paul could not get a shot on the final possession of regulation, with Tony Allen and Rudy Gay swarming him - but he did not quit.

"It's Chris Paul. He made his name off doing that," Gay said.

"He's a tough guard. We can try and make it tougher on him, but still he's going to make plays and make his teammates better.

"That's what he's been doing."

Paul atoned brilliantly in the extra session for his inability to score at the regulation buzzer.

"The worst mistake I probably made in the game was not getting the shot at the end of regulation," Paul said. "If I was at home watching it on TV, I'd be talking so bad about me. But you've got to get through it. The [best] thing about it is that I have teammates that have confidence in me. Everything that we do is a team win."

Maybe so, but the Clippers were ever so grateful to rely on their All-Star point guard.

"Chris is always intense. That's what makes him special," said Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers coach. "Chris is so good, not only at making plays for himself, but making the right play.

"That's what makes him a star."

In their breakthrough season since pairing Paul with Griffin, the Clippers need one more victory to win their second play-off series since the erstwhile Buffalo Braves moved to California.

Los Angeles beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round in 2006, but have not been back to the post-season until this spring.

 

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