It was Showtime at Staples Center on Sunday night, starring the return of Chris Paul, the comeback of Blake Griffin from an injury scare and the rest of the Clippers playing their roles.
Playing in his first game since he separated his right shoulder Jan. 3 at Dallas, Paul had seven points and eight assists in the Clippers’ show-stopping and franchise-record-setting 123-78 victory over the overmatched Philadelphia 76ers.
With Griffin overcoming a bruised left shin suffered in the first quarter to score 26 points, grab 11 rebounds and hand out six assists, the Clippers set a franchise record for biggest margin of victory.
The Clippers held the 76ers to an opponent franchise-low 27% (27 for 100) shooting.
The Clippers set a franchise record for biggest lead at the half when they opened a 69-30 lead after two quarters.
They built a lead as big as 56 points, their largest of the season.
So after missing the last 18 games recovering from his injury, this is what Paul came back to.
“It felt great to play,” said Paul, who played 22 minutes 44 seconds. “It’s one of those things you never know what it’s going to be like until you actually get out there and compete and play. It just felt good.”
Griffin went down late in the first quarter after Tony Wroten slipped while driving and stumbled into Griffin.
After he limped to the locker room with head athletic trainer Jasen Powell, Griffin checked back into the game with 7:31 left in the second quarter.
In case anyone was wondering if Griffin was fine and that he and Paul were on the same page, they got their answer twice in the second quarter.
Paul had a breakaway layup, but threw the ball off the backboard, allowing Griffin to catch it and throw down a windmill dunk.
Then later in the second quarter, Griffin dribbled up court, made a behind-the-back pass with his left hand to Paul, who threw a lob that Griffin dunked, bringing the crowd to its feet again.
So, Griffin was asked after the game, how hard was it play with Paul again?
“It was tough, but we managed,” Griffin deadpanned, laughing along with the media.
From the start, the Clippers were on their game.
They scored a season-high 46 points in the first quarter in opening a 31-point lead. They shot 72% from the field in the first.
They had 14 assists on 18 baskets in the first, 33 assists for the game on 50 field goals made.
“I just think they were excited to get Chris back in the lineup,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “You could see that in the way guys were flying down the floor.”