Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chris Paul Is a Joy to Watch

At this point, everyone knows where I stand on Chris Paul. Like most NBA fans, I know he is clearly the best point guard in basketball and easily one of the best I have ever seen take the hardwood.

Last night, I got to see Paul's brilliance firsthand, as I headed down to the Wells Fargo Center with silver fox to watch the Sixers host the far superior Los Angeles Clippers.

Simply put, Paul put forth a virtuoso performance. In just 24 minutes of action, Paul posted an insanely easy double-double, scoring 21 points and dishing out 11 assists while also notching 5 steals, shooting 9-11 from the field and turning the ball over just once. But even more impressive than his stat line was the absolute control he had over the game from the opening tip until he was rested for good in the fourth quarter.

Paul was just abusing fellow all-star point guard Jrue Holiday, pick and rolling him to death and creating obscenely easy shots for his teammates or himself. If that sounds like hyperbole, it's not. Proof? Beyond Paul shooting an insane 9-11 himself, the Clips shot 58.7 percent from the floor on the night as a team, and it was up near the 62 percent mark before Paul sat for good.

He was quite literally toying with the Sixers for all 24-plus minutes he was out there. He honestly looked like the best sixth grader in elementary school playing against the 3rd graders. He was so much better than everyone out there that he made it look effortless, almost as if he was letting off a bit because he felt so damn sorry for the pathetic saps he was abusing.

For all the strides he's made this year, Jrue Holiday still is lacking defensively despite his physical talents that you would think should translate well on defense. And Paul exposed that clearly last night, using screens by his bigs to shed Holiday and force the defense's hand.

Of course, Jrue had no help himself, as the Sixers quite literally put forth one of the most lackadaisical and quite frankly pathetic performances I've seen in years. It didn't look like anyone out there was even trying besides Nick Young, who scored a game-high 29 points. Without Young dropping some buckets, the Sixers could have easily lost by 50 instead of the eventual 17 the final score indicated (107-90). It was almost embarrassing to watch — not getting blown out by the Clippers, a legitimately great team, but looking like no one even gave a damn at all.

As a result, the game eventually turned into a dunk fest, with Blake Griffin doing what Blake Griffin does and DeAndre Jordan trying to keep pace. Dunks all over the place.

Really, it shouldn't be surprising given that the Sixers have quite possibly the worst interior in the NBA. Spencer Hawes is a 7-foot shooting guard who isn't a very good shooter. Lavoy Allen is a backup, 8th-11th man who somehow starts. Arnett Moultrie is a rookie who is only now getting his shot because Doug Collins is an insane person. Kwame Brown is evidentially dead, and Andrew Bynum has been dead all season.

From top to bottom, the Clippers outclass the Sixers in every regard. I mean, when the starters were announced, you could argue the Clippers have a better player at every spot except shooting guard, where Willie Green is slightly inferior to Nick Young. But Green's backup, Jamal Crawford, is clearly better than Nick Young, so there's that.

This was a game of the haves and have-nots, sure. I mean, at one point with the game near its merciful end, the Sixers had a lineup out there that consisted of Damien Wilkins, Royal Ivey, Dorell Wright, Jeremy Pargo and Moultrie, which resembles a D-League squad much more than an NBA roster, while the Clippers are one of the most talented and deep teams in the league, with backups who would most definitely start on a team like the Sixers.

But it was also a game of a team that clearly is lost without Thaddeus Young and still awaiting the promise of Andrew Bynum, which may never come. And it's a team that has a coach who simply does not know what to do, or simply refuses to make changes. It's evident in the way that Collins didn't go to his scrubs earlier even though the starters and regular rotation guys looked like they didn't given even a little bit of a shit by the midway point of the second quarter.

It was ugly. It was embarrassing. And it was painful, at least on the Sixers side.

But watching Chris Paul run an NBA team is a joy, and last night, he was toying with the hapless Sixers, putting up one of the most effortless double-doubles I've ever seen. It was a beautiful thing to watch as a fan of the game, no matter how damaging it was as a Sxiers fan.

I sure hope Jrue Holiday was paying attention.

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