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Essay: Chris Paul Ruined My Story

At around 1:30 this morning I sat upright in bed, two knees tucked deep in my chest, far from exhaustion and completely enveloped in the most competitive/entertaining/violent series these playoffs have so far produced. It was then that an idea for a column appeared in front of my face; I’d name it, “The Call That Changed Everything”, and here’s how it would go.

With approximately four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Rudy Gay thundered down the lane with his eyes trained on the rim and his spry legs ready for lift off.  And from at least six feet from the basket, lift off he did, right into the chest of a stationary Blake Griffin. After the whole lot of them crumbled to the floor, a whistle was blown and a blocking foul was called. Blake Griffin‘s fifth of the game, sending him to the bench.

As seen from this clip, the call was probably the correct one. Still, as one of those powerful decisions that for a brief second left both teams vulnerable and hung a very important game’s momentum in the balance, it could easily have gone the other way. As Gay collided with Griffin, the Clippers held a 10 point lead. Two free-throws from Gay cut it to eight, and over the next minute, two missed jumpers by L.A. and two made ones by Memphis made it a one possession game. Vinny Del Negro called a time-out and Griffin was back on the court with three minutes to go…

This was supposed to be the call that detailed NBA historians would proclaim as the one that allowed Memphis to tie this series at two, and eventually take in seven, inside the comforts of their FedExForum. But then Chris Paul had to go and ruin everything by eviscerating just about every living, breathing creature that stood in his path. He dribbled through a full court press against perhaps the league’s most ferocious perimeter all by himself. In overtime, Paul scored eight points and registered 0 assists. There was a complete realization in his head that the entire Clippers organization was now positioned on his back, fully expecting to be carried to the finish line. Not only did Paul take them there, he made it look easy.

Here are two shooting charts. The first shows how Chris Paul fared shooting the ball throughout the second half.

Here’s what he did in the five minute overtime.

The blocking foul on Griffin that led to a 13-3 Grizzlies run appeared to teeter on the borders of fate and destiny. It gave those watching the feeling that this “just wasn’t L.A.’s game to win.” But instead of a new story being told, a chapter was added to a book that’s already in existence. The tale of a six-foot point guard from Winston-Salem, North Carolina who now holds a career playoff PER of 27.2, with averages of 22.8 points 5.2 rebounds, and 10.8 assists per game. It’s the story of Chris Paul, the game’s best point guard now, and maybe, after it’s all said and done, ever. The day this book’s final page is written will certainly be one worth mourning.

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