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Clippers' Chris Paul is showing his aggressive side

Clippers' Chris Paul is showing his aggressive side
Clippers guard Chris Paul shoots over guard George Hill on the way to 33 points against the Utah Jazz on Monday night. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Chris Paul took the first shot of the game for the Clippers against Utah on Monday night, a 17-foot jumper that settled into the nets for two points.

Later in the first quarter, Paul pulled up for a 24-foot three-point shot on a fastbreak and yet another three-pointer on a fastbreak from 25 feet a few minutes later in the quarter.

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Those moments in the first quarter were clear signs to the Clippers coaching staff and his teammates that Paul was going to assert his power over the game.

On this night, Paul had willingly gone into his aggressive mode, something Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has yearned to see his point guard do more often.

Paul had 16 points in the first quarter. He took seven shots and made five, including both of his three-pointers.

For the game, Paul was 11 for 21 from the field, five for 11 from three-point range and finished with 33 points.

"My mindset coming out every game is defense," Paul said Monday night after the Clippers lost to Utah in Salt Lake City. "I'm usually guarding the guard who's going off ball-screens. Usually that's the head of the snake. So, unfortunately tonight, I let George Hill (19 points) get going. So offense is what it is. But I go into every game thinking about defense."

The real truth is that Paul is a pass-first point guard, his preferred way being to distribute the ball to his teammates.

Paul is second on the Clippers in scoring, averaging 18.0 points per game, so it's not like he won't put the ball in the hoop. But he also leads the team in assists, averaging 9.3. He leads them in steals, averaging 2.1, showing that he takes just as much pride playing defense.

"I literally go into a game and whatever it gives me that's what I take, like nothing is premeditated," Paul said. "If they're [the defender is] back, I shoot it. If they're up and one of our guys is open, I find them."

All that being said, Paul knows Rivers gets the most pleasure when his point guard is on the attack.

"I try," Paul said. "I try to be aggressive on defense. Like for real. Like going into the game, a lot of times either me or Luc [Mbah a Moute] got the [best offensive] guy. So for me, a lot of times I've got to focus my energy on defense before I can even worry about offense."

But there have been indications that Paul may be willing to be more aggressive.

He had the 33-point game against the Jazz and the 30-point game against Memphis before that.

"I think he's in great rhythm right now," Rivers said. "I thought [Monday] we needed him to do that. Some nights we just need him to be a playmaker. Some nights we need him to be a scorer. We needed that tonight."

UP NEXT

VS. MILWAUKEE

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When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, ESPN; Radio: 570, 1330.

Records: Clippers 40-27; Bucks 32-34.

Record vs. Bucks: 0-1.

Update: The Clippers are 5-6 since the All-Star break. Milwaukee All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the team in scoring (23.1), rebounds (8.6), assists (5.5), steals (1.8) and blocks (1.9.). The Bucks are trying to hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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