Chris Paul won the game for the Los Angeles Clippers, halting a two game skid, through defense and big plays. Not alley oops that are expected on every second possession when the Clippers play, but by digging deep, grinding it out and coming away with the 93-88 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The losses to the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs kinda halted the buzz around the new look Clippers, appropriately nicknamed “Lob City”. With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan flying around, it was easy to forget this team is pretty bad defensively and struggles scoring when the game is slowed down.

Chris Paul Blake Griffin e1325521066473 Paul and the Clippers More Than Just Lob City

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Not against the Blazers, who won their first 3 games of the season. Excellent defense on LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points) and Gerlad Wallace (shut out) and above all else, Chris Paul’s steal late in the game, stripping Jamal Crawford (23 points) of the ball and sealing the win for the Clippers, who are now 2-2.

I know Jamal Crawford really well. He’s an unbelievable scorer and can handle the ball like crazy. I felt I just had to stay down, don’t jump, and I got a deflection. Paul was everywhere in the final minutes, with a big layup, winning a jump-ball against Crawford and that steal.

Paul’s ability (17 points and 7 assists) late in the game is what he was brought for. He struggled against the Bulls and the Spurs, but his ability to create points and shots by himself was the crucial extra for the Clippers on Sunday night. Blake Griffin scored 20 points, but he’s still learning how to create more from himself. Without Chauncey Billups to help share the load, Paul is even more important to the Clippers than initially planned.

It was one of those games that helps the team come together and learn about eachother. The more opportunities we have on the court to know one another, the better we’re going to be. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can play more cohesively; when you’re missing some pieces that slows it down. (Billups)

Paul Griffin e1325521204367 Paul and the Clippers More Than Just Lob City

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The defense in the first three quarters kept the Blazers at 52 points, and the Clippers built a 17 point lead. Then came the collapse, but that’s what great players like Paul do. They make a difference, and aren’t just there for the showtime and all the buzz around town. Chris Paul, besides being a signature signing, probably the biggest for the franchise, wins games, sometimes on his own, through offense and defense.

The Clippers won’t win the league or the West this season. But as this season progresses, they’ll be much more than just a team we tune in to watch for the highlights and dunks. They’ll simply be a good, improving basketball team, with the potential to compete for the NBA title (if Paul stays) rather sooner than later.