LeBron James and Kevin Durant might have been sitting in the top two spots in this year’s MVP race, but Chris Paul thrust himself into their rarefied air with a spectacular performance in a 107-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on January 4.
ESPN's Chris Palmer said as much in the aftermath:
MVP-like performance from @cp3: 30 pts, 13 asts, 6 rebs, 2 stls, 11-25 FG, 7-7 FT, W— Chris Palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) January 5, 2013
In addition to his stat-stuffing, Paul also accumulated a handful of top-notch highlights.
Showing an aggressiveness he typically saves for fourth quarters in the playoffs, Paul came out with guns blazing against the Lakers.
Appropriately for the unselfish Paul, his first great SportsCenter moment came on a steal and lob to Blake Griffin, who was more than happy to cram it down. That play was just the first of many high-wire alley-oops from Paul to Griffin, but it clearly set the tone in the game.
Assists aside, we can't forget CP3's ankle-breaking handles, even if Darius Morris would prefer to wipe this play from his memory.
Immediately after that one, Paul finished out the half in grand style, dropping in a jumper over Kobe Bryant.
CP3: "Oh, hey Kobe. Goodbye, Kobe." sports.cbsimg.net/images/visual/…— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 5, 2013
The most appropriate highlight to end with might be CP3's final one, a dagger in the game's closing seconds:
VIDEO: Chris Paul Drains Shot Over Kobe Bryant in 4th QT - youtu.be/dPnpZgvG8JM— jose3030 (@jose3030) January 5, 2013
On a night when the Clippers staked a firm claim to the ownership rights of the Staples Center, it was only fitting that Paul was the one planting the flag.
There's no way he ends the season with the cartoonish numbers of James or Durant, but his complete dominance of the game—coupled with his flair for the dramatic—makes him just as viable in the MVP conversation.
Kobe called Chris Paul "crafty" post-game on @twcsportsnet, ya I'd say that— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 5, 2013
An apt description, and one that's long defined Bryant's teammate Steve Nash.
Nash was the crafty point guard who edged out Kobe for MVP honors in 2006. This time, it could be Paul.