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Clippers win fifth straight over Knicks, finding their way in Chris Paul’s absence

Jan 18, 2014, 12:01 AM EDT

Blake Griffin Getty Images

NEW YORK — The Clippers were a middle of the pack playoff team in the loaded Western Conference, before Chris Paul went down with a shoulder injury that could keep him out up to five weeks.

Common sense would dictate that they see an immediate drop-off in overall play and production, but the absence of the All-World point guard has allowed the team to focus more on its system, and see other individuals elevate their play in order to help the team continue to achieve success.

L.A. won its fifth straight without Paul on Friday, an easy 109-95 win over a depleted Knicks squad. But there hasn’t been one particular key to the team’s recent string of victories, as Clippers head coach Doc Rivers pointed out afterward.

“We’re kind of making it up,” he said. “We really are. At some point in a game we make a defensive run; we just need to do it for four quarters. The one good thing is offensively, we’ve moved the ball. We had five guys in double figures tonight. It’s tough to guard a team when the ball’s moving and you can’t key on one guy.”

Jamal Crawford finished with 29 points off the bench, and Blake Griffin continued his elite play with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and three steals. The season began in Los Angeles with many believing Paul might put together something approaching an MVP campaign, and he was spectacular before the injury. But it’s been Griffin who has elevated his game to that level, and his play all season has been more than impressive.

“He’s just been great,” Rivers said of Griffin. “He really has. This run — it’s been all year. He’s doing everything — he’s rebounding, we put him on Carmelo down the stretch. He’s doing everything a coach could ask him to do And he’s leading, as well.”

Griffin has been consistent with his amazing performances, but as Rivers said, it’s not as though it’s a recent occurrence — it’s been all season long. Griffin sees Paul’s absence as an opportunity to test the team’s mettle, which he believes may pay dividends later when the postseason comes around.

“You learn everybody’s fight and resolve,” Griffin said. “I think we’ve really shown that we’ve kind of buckled down and really played within ourselves, and really relied on our system to get us there. Nobody’s trying to do too much, and that’s what you need when somebody like CP goes down, because you always worry about somebody trying to replace him. And from day one I think we’ve tried to say that you can’t replace him, and that everybody has to elevate their game.”

To this point, most have. DeAndre Jordan patrols the paint and cleans the glass, Darren Collison is allowed to try to score more than facilitate as Paul’s replacement, and the offense runs through Griffin in the post much more than usual in the team’s current situation.

The hope in Los Angeles is that Paul’s midseason absence could be a blessing in disguise. If the team can learn to trust the system and play to its individuals’ strengths while working toward common goals, then good things are likely to be on the horizon once Paul is back.

“You can’t really go into the playoffs and not know your identity, and not know what you’re trying to accomplish every game,” Griffin said. “For us to every game have a game plan, and have to go out and execute that game plan in order to win — it’s big. And hopefully it gives us some experience playing through adversity.”

  1. pfic15 - Jan 18, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    After watching Collison back up CP in NO for a few years, I am glad to see he’s getting some consistent run time. He filled in admirably for CP back then and seems to be doing so now in this 5 game run. Griffin has taken a step up in a big way this year, nice to see him developing after the dunker label…not that he’s bad at

  2. blazermaniac22 - Jan 18, 2014 at 2:39 AM

    NYK= Dumpster fire

  3. bkbell3 - Jan 18, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    I’m confused, if without Paul they’re running the system more with success then when their ball dominate point guard comes back and he likes to make the home run pass as opposed to running the system and running through griffin how is that going to work out well.Very few times in history has a ball dominate point guard won a chip esp. on teams that don’t run a lot. Rondo was just coming into his own when boston won so magic was maybe the only one who had much success. Isaiah Thomas was a scoring point who had Dumars handling the ball like a point also.Paul is fantastic but he does dominate the ball and dribble to much at times.

  4. mat9844 - Jan 18, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Impressive road win without CP –Griffin keeps showcasing his talent, which seems unending.

  5. jimeejohnson - Jan 18, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Clippers easily winning the battle for basketball supremacy in Los Angeles AND New Yawk.

    • marcusfitzhugh - Jan 18, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      I’m not a Laker fan. I’m a New Yorker who lives in SoCal. That said, the Clips may be winning this particular battle, but the Lakers own Los Angeles. The Clips, get press because they’re winning regular season games “now”. The Lakers own LA because they’ve got banners. Not Pacific Conference Champion banners, not Western Conference Champion banners, but NBA Championship Banners. The closest the Buffalo/San Diego/Los Angeles/traveling road show Clippers have been to The Finals is a conference SEMI. For NY, 1973 was a long time ago. But tell me, how long ago was never? As for winning New York, the Clips used to be the Buffalo Braves. Those who can’t cut it in Buffalo, should do themselves a favor and stay out of the city.

      BTW, I’m not a Lakers fan because I’m from New York City. Celtic fans, Bulls fans, Pistons fan, rabid foaming at the mouth Sixers fans, all TRUE FANS know what I’m talking about. The bandwagon is for somebody else.

    • daveoo - Jan 18, 2014 at 7:22 PM

      Ya so what. Lakers are depleted and the Knicks haven’t been good for 25 years. You aren’t saying much about your Clippers with that statement. They Clips will again fail to get past the 2nd round of the playoffs.

  6. jerdogthompson - Jan 18, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    All he does is dunk, dudes over rated.

    Funny how the morons that kept saying that have disappears.

    Fact. BG is the ONLY player in the NBA averaging 20pts 10boards 3 assists and shooting 50%

    Let that sink in. The ONLY player in the NBA. Funny thing about facts is they tend to shut up the idiots.

    • ranfan12 - Jan 19, 2014 at 12:12 AM

      Well if the players would stop letting him dunk and foul him more, maybe he wouldn’t just dunk. If you’re going to let someone average that much by only dunking, then that’s your problem. I’m just gonna go to work. Also you left out his handles, somewhat improved jumpshot, improved freethrows, which are also facts, so I question your judgement.

  7. daveoo - Jan 18, 2014 at 7:18 PM

    I never understood why CP3 gets so much praise. He’s good but at the same time I think he’s overrated.

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