Chris Paul, Clips beat Warriors 105-86 in opener
OAKLAND, Calif. – Prize acquisition Chris Paul had 20 points and nine assists in his much-anticipated Clippers debut, Blake Griffin added 22 points and seven rebounds and Los Angeles beat the Golden State Warriors 105-86 on Sunday night to spoil Mark Jackson's opener as a first-time coach.
Monta Ellis had 15 points and eight assists after his grandmother's death earlier in the day in Mississippi and David Lee added 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who cut the Clippers' lead to 78-77 with 9:35 left on Brandon Rush's 3-pointer before Los Angeles pulled away.
It was hardly a spectacular opener for CP3 and Co., though coach Vinny Del Negro certainly will take methodical any day. These new-look Clippers hope to shine as Los Angeles' other NBA team, perhaps no longer the Lakers' stepchild.
Paul — who nearly wound up with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers before the NBA nixed the trade — teamed with Chauncey Billups and Griffin for the first time since coming to the Clippers in a Dec. 14 trade from New Orleans.
Billups scored 21 points with a key 3-pointer late for Los Angeles, which plays at San Antonio on Wednesday before returning for four in a row and seven of eight at Staples Center.
Paul had an unspectacular first half: seven points on 1-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes. But he came on with several clutch baskets in the waning minutes to finish 7 for 12.
Each time the Warriors got close, Los Angeles found an answer.
Andris Biedrins scored on a running hook with 6:51 left to cut the Clippers' lead to 82-81, then Mo Williams came through moments later. Caron Butler's 3-pointer with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter gave the Clippers the first double-digit lead of the game at 63-53.
Many fans among the sellout crowd of 19,596 at revamped Oracle Arena wore Warriors Santa hats, while the Clippers got into the holiday spirit with bright green socks to go with their bright red uniforms. Billups added matching green shoes to his game ensemble.
Jackson, who hadn't coached at any level after a successful playing career, appreciated longtime friends Chris Mullin, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen handling the broadcast for the final opener on Christmas.
Van Gundy and Breen pulled off a remarkable double dip after beginning their day in Dallas calling the Heat's 105-94 win over the Mavericks before hopping a charter flight to the Bay Area for the nightcap.
Jackson, with his defense-focused approach, guaranteed the Warriors will be a playoff team after making the postseason just once since 1994. Golden State has been building around the theme "Big Things are Coming," and turned that to "Big Things are Here" for the long-awaited, lockout-delayed opener.
"This team is going to be the hardest working team in the business," Jackson said.
His Warriors face a quick turnaround with Chicago in town Monday night.
Point guard Stephen Curry started for Golden State despite being questionable after he sprained his surgically repaired right ankle in an exhibition game at Sacramento last Tuesday night. Curry — who warmed up extensively on the ankle and wore a special padded sleeve and brace — was 2 for 12 for four points.
Biedrins, bulked up by 15 pounds to 256 and determined for a comeback season, had 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots as the Warriors held a 48-43 advantage on the boards.
Klay Thompson, the Warriors' rookie first-round pick, scored seven points in 19 minutes off the bench in his first game with Golden State. Owner Joe Lacob predicted Thompson will be in the running for Rookie of the Year.
Dorell Wright's 3-pointer 4:36 before halftime pulled Golden State within 36-35, then Ellis scored on a driving fastbreak layin the next time down to give his team the lead and cap a 9-0 run. The Warriors led 43-41 at halftime after closing with a 15-5 run. They went 2 for 10 from long range to the Clippers' 3 for 12.
Notes: The Warriors paid tribute before tipoff to Ellis' grandmother, Mary Cole, who died Christmas morning at age 89. Last week, a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against Ellis by a former Warriors employee. The team has said their relationship was consenual. ... Clippers C DeAndre Jordan might have wound up with the Warriors had Los Angeles not matched Golden State's four-year, $42.7 million offer earlier this month. "It would've been great to play with Monta and Stephen and those guys but the Clippers matched and I'm happy I'm here and I'll be grateful to those guys (Warriors front office) the rest of my career," said Jordan, who scored in the first quarter on a pretty alley-oop dunk off a pass from Caron Butler.