Almost 30 minutes after his turnover in the final seconds on Monday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies prevented him from attempting a game-winning shot, he still would not look up as he sat in front of his locker.
While players around him dressed, Paul couldn’t take his eyes of the tablet he was holding, which was replaying the final seconds of the game and his agonizing turnover.
As he watched the final possessions of the game, Glen Davis came over to offer some words of encouragement, as did assistant coach J.P. Clark, but all Paul could do was shake his head as he watched the video of Mike Conley stealing the ball from him and sealing the Grizzlies’ 90-87 win over the Clippers.
It was a tough loss, but no one took it harder than Paul, who refused to put the tablet down and take off the ice packs wrapped around his knees and leave the locker room as most of his teammates already had.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports
Chris Paul appeared poised to pull out the victory before Mike Conley stole away his chance.
“I was looking at it and the play before that I probably had Spencer Hawes I could have hit and J.J. [Redick] rolled up and took a tough shot,” Paul said.
But it was Paul’s turnover, coming with 1.9 seconds left and the Clippers down by one, that continued to gnaw at Paul after he got dressed. Redick had just gotten the rebound after a Zach Randolph miss with 14.8 seconds left. But without a timeout, the plan was essentially to give the ball to Paul and let him do his thing on a night when he had 30 points and 10 assists.
“The last play, I just turned the ball over,” Paul said. “All I kept thinking about is if I was at home watching this game, I’d say this dummy didn’t even get a shot up. In that situation you have to at least give yourself a chance.”
With no timeouts, Paul admits it wasn’t an ideal end-of-game situation but shook his head at the fact he didn’t at least get a shot off.
“We gave ourselves a chance, we had the ball and you have to at least get a shot up and not a turnover, so that’s on me,” Paul said. “I’ll look at the game again tonight, but tomorrow I have to get past it and get ready for a tough Houston team and a tough road trip.”
This wasn’t the way the game was supposed to end for Paul. Against one of their biggest rivals and with Blake Griffin still sidelined for another couple of weeks, Paul put the Clippers on his back. He scored 19 points in the first half when no other players in the game had more than seven. He was all over the court, diving for loose balls and getting on players for not hustling back on defense.
“My coaches always talk to me about being aggressive,” Paul said. “I tried to have that mindset of staying downhill. They usually play back and that was what was open early.”
Doc Rivers, one of the best coaches in the league at drawing up a play out of timeout, said he didn’t think the Clippers played with offensive discipline the entire game but was particularly frustrated with the play in which Paul turned the ball over. Not because he wasn’t able to draw up a play or even because of the turnover, but because the lack of spacing on the floor ultimately helped lead to the turnover.
“There was just no spacing,” Rivers said. “It was a random play because we didn’t have a timeout. It was a fast break for the most part, but I thought our spacing was horrendous and I told our guys that after the game. They didn’t really force the turnover, but the fact that their guys were standing at the elbows I thought affected the way Chris had to attack.”
Paul continued to think about his turnover and the final seconds of the game long after it was over and after every player in the locker room was asked about. It was the kind of moment he has relishes being in, though he has recently had difficulty shining in. As he left Staples Center on Monday he said he would watch the game again and plan for a different result when the Clippers meet the Grizzlies in Memphis on Friday.
“You play the whole game to get in those situations,” Paul said. “You try to thrive in those situations and for that to happen is tough but you have to look at it, learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”