Blake Griffin was out for the Clippers just six minutes into the game (back spasms have him day-to-day), and that set them on their heels — the Rockets led by 15 at one point in the early in the second quarter.
Then Chris Paul took over.
The best point guard in the game scored 30 points — 17 of them in the second quarter when the Clippers put up 38 points to lead by 3 at the half — and dished out 12 assists to lead the Clippers to a season sweep of the Rockets, 118-107. Without Patrick Beverley or Dwight Howard to slow him, Paul was able to do what he wanted but he was also knocking down shots, hitting 5-of-9 from three.
CP3 got help — Houston native DeAndre Jordan had 20 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. The Clippers earlier this season showed they could win without Paul, on Saturday night they showed they can beat a good team with him but without Blake Griffin.
With our PBT Extra videos, we are previewing the entire NBA by using bold predictions, starting in the Pacific Division (we already did the Warriors).
Some of those predictions come from fans on Twitter where I had sent out a request, including the bold prediction for the Clippers.
It could happen, they are certainly contenders. But two things need to happen.
The big one is their defense, which was middle of the pack last season, needs to move into the top 10 (and DeAndre Jordan needs to play consistently like a guy who is third in Defensive Player of the Year voting).
Second is the new and improved bench unit of Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, and Jamal Crawford (he’s not new) need to mesh into a unit. Those are three guys who like to create for themselves and make questionable shot choices, getting them play well with others could be a bumpy road.
Stephen Curry said the defending-champion Warriors would have no problem picking up where they left off.
His swagger certainly remains intact.