Found April 27, 2012 on
Fox Sports West:
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs
As the Clippers surged back from an 18-point deficit Wednesday, Chris Paul bounced out to meet his teammates as they returned to the bench after a New York timeout.
He did so with a limp, the result of a sore groin that kept him from playing.
When the Lakers wrapped up their season Thursday in Sacramento, it was with Kobe Bryant wearing a suit and his new title, Coach Bryant.
The Clippers and Lakers will share the playoff stage together for the first time since 2006 when they open Sunday, the Lakers at home against Denver and the Clippers on the road at Memphis.
But their prospects appear no healthier than the two souls of their team Paul, who was unable to play in a critical season-finale, and Bryant, who played in just two of the Lakers final 10 games due to an injured shin.
Both the Lakers and Clippers are darkhorses in the Western Conference, certainly with enough talent to reach the NBA Finals but saddled with enough question marks not to expect it.
The Lakers will be without Metta World Peace for six playoff games; their best player off the bench, Matt Barnes, is nursing a sprained ankle; and who knows when Andrew Bynum will have another out-of-body experience?
The Clippers, meanwhile, are counting on three starters Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye who have never played in a playoff game before. Rediscovering their defense, which has allowed their last five opponents to shoot 49.3 percent, would be helpful.
But nothing is as important as the health of Paul and Bryant. What the Lakers and Clippers each have is a transcendent player, who can cover up plenty of his teams warts. Bryants track record as a closer is long and distinguished, and though he has slipped some down the stretch in the last two seasons, he was superb late in last weeks big comeback against Oklahoma City, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtimes.
Paul has often carried the Clippers down the stretch he, too, beat the Thunder with a high-arching drive in the waning seconds of their win in Oklahoma City. The Clippers have won 14 games when they trailed by at least 10 points, the most in the league.
In some eyes, Paul is the best finisher in the game.
What I laugh about is no one talks about who the best fourth-quarter player is, Nuggets coach George Karl said last week when the Clippers were in Denver. Chris Paul is the best fourth-quarter player right now. This year, hes been incredible. Not only at the end of games, hes been incredible at the eight-minute mark where his team is ready to fall off and lose and he saves them.
I feel his will to win when Im playing against him as much as anybody. I mean there are other great ones. Tim Duncan has a great will to win. Manu Ginobili has a great will to win. Steve Nash has a tremendous way of willing his team into why are they winning this game? Derrick Rose, the kid has a will to win the game. I think Chris Paul, what hes done with this team, is pretty amazing.
But for both Paul and Bryant, it wont be easy. Theyll be facing two of the better perimeter defenders in the league in crunch time Memphis Tony Allen and Denvers Arron Afflalo.
The Lakers have struggled the last two seasons in the first round, Pau Gasols tip-in just before the buzzer sparing them of having to play a seventh game against No. 8 seed Oklahoma City two years ago. And last year, they were pushed to six games by New Orleans thanks in large part to Paul who was sensational.
The Lakers won three of four from Denver in the regular season. But the teams were separated by a total of four points and the Nuggets have two qualities that could be useful against the Lakers: plenty of size with Timofey Mozgov, JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufas to throw at Bynum and a deep bench that could exploit the Lakers thin one.
And while the Clippers won two of three from Memphis in the regular season, the Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mareese Speights could put a lot of pressure on Jordan and Kenyon Martin to stay out of foul trouble and for Blake Griffin to play defense consistently.
Of course, Bryant and Paul are quite capable of making all this chatter about matchups moot. Delivering a critical basket has a way of making a nagging groin and painful shin feel a lot better and teammates, too.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) --The Los Angeles Clippers are poised to open their first playoff series in fiveyears and Chris Paul skipped practice.
The All-Star guard whoseDecember trade helped propel the Clippers to 40 wins -- their most since 2006-07-- sat out Friday while recovering from a strained left groin that sidelinedhim during their last regular-season game.
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Check out the new Jeep & USA Basketball broadcast spot titled, “When We All Believe,” featuring USA Basketball’s Chris Paul and Grammy-award winning artist, Common. The spot will break on 4/28 — Special Thanks to NBA.com for sending our way.-TO
Jeep and CP3 Sign On as USA Basketball Sponsor
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NEW YORK Self preservation can have a powerful pull. And so when the decision came to tell Chris Paul that due to a sore groin he would be sitting out the season finale, one in which homecourt advantage for the Clippers' first-round series with Memphis hung in the balance, it was not a particularly hard one for Vinny Del Negro.
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