The latest battle between two of the NBA's top point guards will take place in Newark tonight as Chris Paul and the LA Clippers visit Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets.
The two All-Stars were selected one pick apart in the 2005 draft when Williams was taken third overall by Utah and Paul went No. 4 to New Orleans. The two met numerous times when they were with their old clubs but this will be the first time they will renew their rivalry with their current teams.
Paul was sidelined with a left hamstring strain during a 101-91 Clips win over New Jersey on Jan. 16 at Staples Center. Blake Griffin had 23 points and 14 rebounds in that one as LA ended a three-game slide in the series.
The Clippers are currently 2-2 on a four-game road trip after falling in Minnesota, 95-94, on Monday. The Timberwolves' Kevin Love scored his team's final four points down the stretch en route to a 39-point, 17-rebound performance to lift Minnesota.
Paul had a chance to tie the game for the Clippers with 2.7 seconds left after being fouled by rookie Derrick Williams on a three-point attempt. Paul connected on the first two free throws, but missed badly on the third allowing Minnesota to escape with the victory.
CP3 finished with 18 points and five assists, while Griffin led the way with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Mo Williams added 19 points off the bench, but the Clippers dropped to 10-9 on the road this season and lead the Lakers by percentage points in the Pacific Division.
"They're a good team, look at their record," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said of Minnesota. "We missed a lot of free throws, but our guys battled and grinded it out and we had an opportunity. We just couldn't convert when we needed it."
Williams and the Nets, meanwhile, followed up D-Will's historic 57-point performance against Charlotte on Sunday by laying an egg in Miami on Tuesday, falling to the star-studded Heat 108-78.
Williams, whose 57 points against the Bobcats was a franchise record, had 16 to pace New Jersey in Miami. Rookie MarShon Brooks added 12 points and Johan Petro had 11 off the bench.
The Nets' largest lead of the game was five. It came early in the first quarter, when Kris Humphries knocked down a pair from the foul line to make it 7-2.
"It was a tough night for us," said Nets coach Avery Johnson. "We were down early and we were down late. They were about three steps quicker than us tonight."
Center Brook Lopez was out with a right ankle sprain, which he suffered against the Bobcats. He is expected to miss three weeks. Lopez, of course, already missed the first 32 games of the season with a broken bone in his right foot, and is averaging 19.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in just five games this season.
Fellow big man Mehmet Okur is also sidelined with a balky back for the Nets, who have lost seven straight in north Jersey.