With mere seconds left on the clock and the Clippers clinging to a two-point lead, Paul checked All-Star Warriors point guard Stephen Curry as he attempted to hit a game-winning three-pointer.
Paul, long known as one of the league's cagiest (dirtiest?) defenders, appeared to hit Curry in the hip area as he released the shot. Curry immediately went to the officials and complained that Paul didn't give him enough space to land, according to ESPN's J.A. Adande.
Naturally, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers saw the play differently. Not only did Rivers defend his star player, but he went on the offensive on Friday afternoon by praising Paul as perhaps the greatest defensive point guard he's ever seen in a radio interview with 95.7 FM The Game:
#Clippers HC Doc Rivers on Chris Paul: "I think he's the best defender at the point guard I've seen--maybe ever"— 95.7 The GAME (@957thegame) April 25, 2014
Lofty praise, indeed. And it is true that Paul remains one of the league's premier defensive point guards, regardless of whether or not he fouled Curry on that fateful final possession. The nine-year veteran has made the NBA All-Defensive Team in five of the last six seasons.
But best ever? That might be stretching it. As great as he is, at 6'0", Paul lacks the requisite size to be considered the greatest of the great defenders at his position.
Older NBA fans might recall the defensive genius of Hall of Fame point guard Walt Frazier, who starred for the New York Knicks during the '70s. At 6'4", he was longer than just about every point guard of his era and a genius when it came to defending the point. Here's what Fox Sports had to say about Frazier's D: "His specialty was lulling the opposing point guard into a sense of complacency, then lunging for steals with lightning-fast precision."
Frazier made NBA All-Defense first team in seven consecutive seasons between 1968 and 1975.
A more contemporary candidate for the title of greatest defensive point guard would be Gary Payton, another Hall of Famer and the only point guard in NBA history to win Defensive Player of the Year (1995-96).
Did Rivers ever watch "The Glove" hound opposing point guards with his legendary combination of tenacity and trash talk? Well, Payton did play the 2004-05 season for the Boston Celtics...who just so happened to be coached by Doc Rivers.
Of course, there's no guarantee that Rivers actually means what he said. It is more likely another example of hyperbolic coach-speak. The man is a master motivator, and he likely wanted to give Paul even more incentive to shut down Curry when they face off for Game 4 on Sunday.