This article was originally published in The Field at scroll.in on December 18, 2016
“The turnovers,” the Los Angeles Clippers’ 32-year-old point guard said. “That’s the first thing I look at every game.”
To be precise, there were not any.
The 12-year veteran, tallied 20 points and 20 assists with zero turnovers in a 133-105 blowout win over the New Orleans Pelicans last Saturday. The first time that feat was achieved in over four decades.
Paul’s numbers over the past decade tell you the story you already know; that he has been one of the most reliable and consistent players the NBA has seen. This season, he is averaging 17.8 points per game and 9.4 assists per game (fourth in the NBA) and a league leading 2.4 shots per game while shooting 46% from the field, including a near career high of 40% from three-point land and 89% from the free throw line, with a career high +/- efficiency of +9.3 (eighth in the NBA).
Led by Paul, the rest of the Clippers are also putting up numbers consistent with (if not slightly better than) their respective career averages.
And they are clicking like never before.
A brand new team
With the defensive-minded Luc Mbah a Moute permanently moving into a starting role, the Clippers have finally turned into the two-way force that head coach Doc Rivers wanted them to become since he took up the job in 2013.
Offensively they continue to play classic Clipper-ball. They are scoring the ball at 109.6 points per game (sixth in the NBA) getting to that mark with just 39.1 shots (fourth best among teams scoring at least 105 points per game). They are still in red-hot form three-point territory shooting 38.2% (fifth). They pass the ball at a 10th best 22.3 assists per game, thanks largely to Paul’s 9.4 apg and Griffin’s 4.6 apg.
Defensively, though, they look like a brand new team that is holding opponents to a very respectable 101 points per game and 44.1% field goals (both eighth in the NBA). Not only that, their transition defence has taken a massive turn for the better with opponents scoring just 13.6 ppg (fourth) off turnovers against them, but they are defending second chance attempts far better this season holding opponents to 11.8 ppg (5th). This enables them to possess the second best defensive rating in the NBA at an enviable 101.3 behind league leaders the Memphis Grizzlies.
All this has led to the Clippers having a +/- efficiency of +8.6 just three points behind league leaders the Golden State Warriors.
They still turn the ball over nearly 13 times a games and have just above average rebounding numbers, which by playoff standards means they are woeful. And as improved as their defence has been, they are too dependant on Moute, and threatens to come crashing do if he were to sustain an untimely injury.
All this, of course, falls apart without their floor general, Chris Paul.
Make no mistake; Paul understands the position he is in and the short window he has as an elite level point guard in a fast changing league. And while he is not suited to play the part of the most important man in the NBA (he is President of the National Basketball Players Association), he continues to cement his legacy on court by doing what he does best, helping his team succeed.
“He is a legend, man.” DeAndre Jordan gushed after the aforementioned win over the Pelicans.
Indeed, he is. But a legend without a rig will forever have that asterix against his name in the annals of NBA History.
Just ask Charles Barkley.