With the 2015-16 season in the books for the Los Angeles Clippers, we’re counting down Paul Pierce’s five best games of the season. At No. 2, we’ll look at a game in which Paul was on fire from three-point land to lead the Clips to a 109-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Janaury 6, 2016. ICYMI: No. 3 on the 2015-16 list.
No. 2: Paul Embraces Starting Role, Buries Blazers
The Los Angeles Clippers faced uncertainty after losing their leading scorer to injury, but Paul Pierce took charge in his newfound role to give them inspiration on and off the hardwood.
Starting in place of power forward Blake Griffin, Paul was efficient from three-point land to lead the Clips past the Portland Trail Blazers on the road Jan. 6. No. 34 was red-hot from beyond the arc, going 5-of-6 for 17 points, adding four rebounds, two steals and an assist as the Clips ran away with a 109-98 win.
The victory marked the Clippers’ seventh consecutive win and sixth straight game without Griffin, who missed 45 games after tearing his left quadriceps tendon in a Christmas Day matchup with the Lakers.
Without Blake, the Clippers were forced to alter their gameplan. While the offense had largely relied on Griffin previously, the ball spread out with him out of the lineup. Much of that spacing came thanks to Paul playing more of a stretch-four role in Griffin’s slot. As he explained, it only takes a little bit of real estate to make a difference.
“Space is space,” The Truth said. “If you added this much more space to your house, would you have more room? I’m just sayin’…”
Ball movement thinned Portland’s defense. Running through 19 Chris Paul assists, the Clippers relied on each other to find open shots.
“I always say getting assists, I’ve got the easy part,” CP3 said. “All I’ve got to do is pass it. The other guy has the hard part, making the shots. J.J. made shots, DJ dunked, Paul, Wes, all those guys.”
In addition to his hot hand, Paul helped the Clips keep their cool whenever the Blazers began to gain ground, which they did in abundance in the fourth quarter. Four times that frame, Portland cut the L.A. lead to six, and four times the Clippers beat back the rally.
“Paul jumped up in the huddle one time and just told everybody to ‘Calm down, we got the lead,’” CP3 revealed. “We have the tendency as a team that everybody gets excited and a little rattled, but we just have to be cool like we’ve been there before.”
Shortly after No. 34 checked back in with 4:36 to go, he dropped his fifth long-range bomb of the night to push the lead to double digits, 101-91.
If that wasn’t the dagger, Paul delivered it on the defensive end shortly thereafter. He swiped a pass which led to a bucket by Austin Rivers on the other end, stretching the lead back to 11 with less than two minutes to go, effectively sealing the seventh straight victory for the NBA’s hottest team.
The Clips continued to conquer, extending their winning streak to 10 games. During that tear, Paul registered four double-digit scoring nights, proving that L.A. had the depth and the will to adapt through times of controversy.