A look at how Clippers performed: Spotlight on Chris Paul

Clippers spotlight: A recap of Chris Paul's season

During the Clippers' off-season, we will take a look at how each player on the team performed last season. Here's an evaluation of All-Star point guard Chris Paul.

Paul entered the 2014-15 season with a lot of motivation. He blamed the team's second-round playoff exit the prior season on himself after he committed a series of errors in the final 49.2 seconds of Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder that led to the Clippers blowing a seven-point lead, and being forced to play an elimination game that ended their season.

"I would be lying to you to say I'd forgotten about it," Paul told The Times in September.

This season, he averaged 19.1 points, 10.2 assists, 1.9 steals and only 2.3 turnovers. Paul also played in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his career. Paul had the best assists per turnover ratio in the NBA (4.41) and led the league in assists.

Despite Paul's strong performance, he was not one of the top names mentioned in the NBA's most valuable player discussion, much to the chagrin of Clippers Coach Doc Rivers and Lakers Coach Byron Scott.

Said Rivers: "I just think CP is taken for granted. He should take that as a compliment, really. He's really good and he's very consistent at being really good. I think we just kind of take it for granted."

Said Scott: "So I'm a little biased because I still think he's the best point guard in the league. I think definitely the way he's played this season, with some of the injuries that they've had, he definitely should be in the conversation."

Paul, however, wasn't focused on that award. He had his eyes set on another goal. When asked in April if he was frustrated about not being mentioned as MVP, Paul didn't hesitate in his response.

"Not at all," Paul said. "I'm trying to get ready for the playoffs."

In the 2015 playoffs, Paul averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.2 turnovers a game. He also had a moment during this postseason that seemingly redeemed him from that Game 5 in 2014.

It happened in Game 7 of the Clippers' first-round series against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Paul sustained a left hamstring strain. The Clippers said it was questionable whether he'd return, but Paul checked back into the game midway through the second quarter.

Then with one second left and the score tied at 109-109, Paul banked in a jumper over Danny Green and Tim Duncan to advance the team to the next round. Paul finished with a team-high 27 points on nine-for-13 shooting and six assists. He also made five of his six three-point attempts.

"He was incredible all-around," Duncan said of Paul after that game. "Just an amazing competitor. I know he was a little hurt, and he played through all that, found ways to get it done. I mean, just unbelievable last shot over two of us. He's just a great leader, and it was amazing to watch. I wish I wasn't on the other end."

Paul's game-winning shot was so impressive that it even inspired Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James to break his self-imposed cellphone ban during the playoffs to call Paul and congratulate him.

“I called him from my wife’s phone,” James told reporters. “He answered the phone, he was like, ‘What’s up?’ I told him don’t say nothing, you’re not allowed to reply, don’t say anything. I told him how amazing he was and how great he was. And I hung up on him. I haven’t spoken to him since. It’s the truth."

The left hamstring strain that Paul sustained in Game 7 against the Spurs kept Paul sidelined for Games 1 and 2 of the Clippers' second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. In that series, the Clippers took a 3-1 lead and were on the brink of reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in their 45-year existence. The Clippers then lost their next three games in a row to allow the Rockets to become just the ninth team in history to recover from that type of series deficit to advance to the next round.

Paul tried to save the Clippers from such a historic collapse, averaging double-doubles in each of those final three games with 26.3 points and 10.3 assists, but it was to no avail. After the Clippers' Game 7 loss, Paul had disappointment and frustration streaked all over his face. 

"Being close ain't good enough," he said.

 

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