Blake Griffin and Chris Paul wanted to keep it simple. Get back to doing those things they do so well.
It’s what made them All-Stars and transformed the Clippers from laughingstocks to serious title-contenders.
Their team had largely gotten away from the dual dominance its top tandem can impose in the early stages of the season before finding it again Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Griffin attacked the basket with renewed vigor and Paul skillfully blended passes and shots during a 113-92 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
Griffin was aggressive from the game’s opening seconds on the way to 22 points, a season-high 16 rebounds and nine assists. Paul orchestrated the offense with 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go with a season-high 15 assists, surpassing Hall of Famer Jerry West and moving into 25th place on the all-time assists list with 6,241 for his career.
The teammates were in sync after recently discussing what it would take to win big in their fourth season together.
“We both realized that our bread and butter used to be when I would attack downhill and he was rolling to the basket,” Paul said, “so we’re trying to mix that in as well as some of the short rolls and then just trying to be aggressive early.”
They exhibited their effectiveness 2 1/2 minutes into the game, when Griffin took a bounce pass from Paul in the paint and drove for a one-handed dunk.
Griffin was relentless while helping the Clippers (8-5) improve to 3-1 on their seven-game trip. He missed a layup and a tipin midway through the third quarter before finally tipping in his second consecutive miss, flexing afterward in an emotional display.
“He was dominant, he really was,” said Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford. “Inside, his energy, it was just like he came out on a mission and we just followed him.”
It was also a memorable night for Crawford. His five three-pointers gave him 1,723 for his career, moving him past Dale Ellis (1,719) and into 10th place on the all-time list.
Crawford, a Seattle native, had watched Ellis play for his hometown SuperSonics while growing up.
“I was at a game when he hit eight or nine threes in Seattle,” said Crawford, who finished with 21 points. “To me, I’m not in that level as far as shooting, so to hear the names is unbelievable. Steve Nash, I passed him last year — like, I’m not a shooter like Steve Nash. To pass him is pretty cool.”
J.J. Redick added 17 points for the Clippers, who made 15 of 32 three-pointers. Charlotte made only two of 20 shots from that range, negating the advantage of taking 35 free throws to the Clippers’ 10.
Al Jefferson scored 16 points for the Hornets (4-11), who have lost six consecutive games, but only six of his points came after halftime, thanks to the strong defensive efforts of Clippers counterpart DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin said his fellow big man was critical of himself on a night he had 11 points, 12 rebounds and one block.
“I just don’t think he understands his impact unless he’s actually blocking every single shot,” Griffin said of Jordan, “because sometimes, he does do that.”
It’s easy to see how good the Clippers can be whenever Griffin and Paul play as they did Monday.
“When Blake and C.P. play well on the same night,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said, “we’re probably going to win that game.”