OKLAHOMA CITY — Chris Paul is usually about assists — he led the league in that category this season, and his popular television commercials focus on them.
He helped his team in a surprisingly different way Monday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. The point guard made eight 3-pointers against the Oklahoma City Thunder — three more than he had ever made in an NBA game — to help the Clippers win 122-105.
Paul, who only missed one 3-pointer and finished with 32 points, said fans should not expect a similar explosion in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
“The next game, I might have 12 points, 10 points, maybe not even that many,” he said Tuesday. “I think I’m one of those people — whatever it takes to win. I don’t care. I’m never going to lead the league in scoring or anything like that. It’s just whatever to try to win.”
Paul, who finished seventh in the MVP voting despite missing nearly one-quarter of the season with a shoulder injury, has been a capable scorer throughout his career. He averaged 19.1 points this season, and has averaged 18.6 points over his nine NBA seasons. Clippers forward Blake Griffin believes Paul could be even more of a scorer.
“A night like last night shows what he can do offensively,” Griffin said. “There’s dialogue sometimes for him to get more aggressive like he was last night because he can do that almost every game. We tell him to be aggressive, but his whole thing is getting other guys the ball.”
Paul’s shooting leaves the Thunder with an unexpected problem. The Clippers have plenty of offensive weapons — Griffin, who finished third in the MVP balloting, and Jamal Crawford, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, immediately come to mind. Add perimeter players Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick and Darren Collison, the inside game of DeAndre Jordan and Paul as a more assertive threat from the outside, and the Clippers might be more dangerous than the team that led the NBA in scoring during the regular season.