The veteran point guard did his best impression of the league's top sharpshooter, hitting 8-of-9 three-pointers and 12-of-14 overall for 32 points in just three quarters of work, as the Los Angeles Clippers laid a 122-105 beatdown on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 on Monday night.
Prior to this series, much of the focus surrounded the matchup of two of the Association's top point guards, Paul and Russell Westbrook, which the former downplayed, via the Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner.
"I definitely get excited about [these matchups]," Paul said. "But I also understand it’s not one-on-one. Luckily for me it’s not. My college coach used to always say it’s a team game played by individuals. So everybody has to do their part."
Westbrook was impressive in his own right, tallying 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting. However, Paul "did his part" on another level, doing whatever he wanted on the floor en route to an unbelievably efficient 2.29 points per shot attempt and 10 assists.
According to The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds and Bleacher Report's Fred Katz, it was a record-setting performance that put CP3 in prestigious company:
No one ever had 10 assists and 8 3's in an NBA playoff game before Chris Paul did tonight.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 6, 2014
Chris Paul has 32 points and 10 assists on 12-for-14 shooting. Only player since 85 to go 30&10 w/ 80% shooting in postseason: Jordan in 91.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) May 6, 2014
Blake Griffin chipped in 23 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Clips, who shot 54.9 percent from the field, hit 15 three-pointers and led by as many as 27 points before the lead dwindled with the benches during the fourth quarter.
Head coach Doc Rivers talked about the statement win:
Kevin Durant added 25, as he and Westbrook combined for 51.4 percent of Oklahoma City's point total despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter of the blowout. Although the Thunder made the final score somewhat respectable after it was already decided, it was still a historically bad loss, as Janis Carr of the Orange County Register noted:
Clippers hand Thunder worst home loss since moving to OKC - a 122-105 defeat.— janis carr (@janiscarr) May 6, 2014
It was actually the Thunder who got off to a quick start, scoring on eight of their first 10 possessions to jump out to a 16-10 lead after just five minutes.
Then the Chris Paul show began.
Over the final seven minutes of the first quarter, the Clips scored 11 baskets. Five of those were threes from Paul, a sixth was a mid-range jumper from the scorching-hot point guard and three more were assisted by him.
It was transcendent, and ESPN's J.A. Adande compared the floor general to another surgeon in the sports world:
Actually, CP3 tonight reminds me of Peyton Manning at his best. Breaking down the defense to take whatever he wants from it— J.A. Adande (@jadande) May 6, 2014
Fueled by a 21-4 run following the Thunder's fast start, L.A. ended the first quarter with a 39-25 advantage.
As the team's official Twitter feed noted, it was one of the best 12-minute offensive explosions of the season for the league's most efficient offensive team:
1st quarter tonight is 9th time this season LAC has had 39+ pts in a quarter. They've done it twice in OKC— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) May 6, 2014
Paul continued to cook in the second quarter, and he would enter the locker room with 22 points on an absurd nine field-goal attempts (6-of-6 from deep) with six assists. The rest of the squad followed suit, shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from long range en route to a unstoppable 69-point half.
Even more impressive, as Rotoworld's Michael Gallagher noted, is most of the production for the high-flying team came in the half court:
Clippers had just five fast-break points. Killin' it in half-court sets. Only 3 turnovers too.— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) May 6, 2014
OKC wasn't terrible in its own right, shooting 47.6 percent from the field, but 10 turnovers had the Thunder trailing, 69-52, at intermission.
After Paul knocked down his seventh consecutive three at the start of the second half, ESPN Stats & Info noted that he had almost literally run the gauntlet through the Thunder roster:
Chris Paul has made a pull-up jump shot against 7 different Thunder defenders tonight— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 6, 2014
He would eventually hit his eighth three before finally missing, and the Clippers would extend the lead all the way to 27 before ending the third quarter with a 104-78 advantage.
As the home fans filed out of Chesapeake Energy Arena, the second units played out the fourth quarter and Los Angeles strolled to its second huge blowout of the postseason.
Thunder crowd with four minutes left in a playoff game. Can't blame them pic.twitter.com/djpj7RdNq8— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 6, 2014
The Clippers' goal was to steal at least one game in Oklahoma City, and they did so in emphatic fashion. If they can find a way to win Game 2 on Wednesday night, they'll have an absolute stranglehold on the series heading back to Los Angeles.
Of course, it's a long series, and as Hardwood Paroxysm's Brian Schroeder noted, the talent level on both sides means blowouts won't be the norm:
4 of the 10 best players alive are in this series. It'll get better.— Brian Schroeder (@Cosmis) May 6, 2014
The Thunder showed their resiliency in Round 1 against Memphis, and will almost assuredly bounce back, but know this: There's no one on the planet who can beat the Clippers when they execute offensively like they did Monday night.