By Broderick Turner
4:57 PM PDT, October 20, 2013
It was supposed to be just a meaningless exhibition game between the Clippers and Denver Nuggets in Las Vegas on Saturday night, but it was anything but that.
No one told Chris Paul the game didn't mean anything, not when he was scoring a preseason career-high 40 points and handing out 11 assists in 42 minutes during the Clippers' 118-111 overtime victory at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Paul's layup tied the score in the fourth quarter, sending the game into OT. He was 12 for 13 from the free-throw line, and had seven rebounds for good measure.
So, by no means was this just a meaningless game for Paul.
"It was magic," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers told reporters after the game. "I've seen a lot of great performances. The great ones can do that and he did it. And he did it because we needed it and that's good."
There was Blake Griffin playing with a sore right ankle when he didn't have to. Griffin played 39 minutes and had 17 points and eight rebounds.
There was backup point guard Darren Collison dropping in 27 points, including a backbreaking three-pointer late in overtime.
And there was guard Jamal Crawford playing after he'd been given the night off. He told Rivers at halftime that he would play.
Crawford said he didn't "even have a uniform on" while sitting on the bench during the first half, just his warmups. He changed into his uniform at halftime.
"You want to help your teammates," Crawford told reporters. "We all want to help each other and we all believe in each other."
The Clippers didn't practice Sunday after returning from Las Vegas that morning. They'll practice Monday and Tuesday before playing the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at Staples Center in an exhibition game. They face the Sacramento Kings on Friday night at Staples.
Collison doing job
If any Clippers fans wondered how the team would fare after backup point guard Eric Bledsoe was traded to the Phoenix Suns, the play of Collison during the exhibition season probably has put those doubts to rest.
Collison, a free-agent pickup, has been doing the job as Paul's new backup.
"To be honest, all the credit goes to Doc," Collison said. "He has been on me since day one, as far as just letting me play my game. It's been a very, very long time when a coach like that allowed me to just play my game."
In six exhibition games, Collison is averaging 16.7 points per game, 5.7 assists and 2.0 steals. The four-year veteran from UCLA is shooting 53.1% from the field, 50% (seven for 14) from three-point range and 80.6% from the free-throw line.
"That's my job, to go in the game, try and change the tempo, try to cause havoc any way that I can to help the team win," Collison said. "Doc has been saying that from day one that's my job and I'm going to take on that challenge."
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