BARNES & TURIAF COME UP BIG IN RESERVE
SAN ANTONIO – Chris Paul was beaming as he sat on a black folding chair in front of his locker inside the bowels of AT&T Center after Monday's 92-87 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
He made a game-clinching shot that included a spin move around Tony Parker and an off balance turnaround that helped the Clippers to their sixth win in a row and second over San Antonio in less than two weeks. But this night, despite his clutch basket, was less about Chris Paul than it ever was last season.
More than anything that may have been why the early MVP candidate was so excited.
He was happy with the win, happy with starting the road trip with victory No. 1, but he seemed ecstatic when asked about the contributions of the bench, particularly Matt Barnes and Ronny Turiaf.
“We got off to slow start, down 10, and our bench,” Paul said before pausing briefly. “That’s what it’s always about.”
Barnes, who was called upon to fill in for Caron Butler after Butler left the game with a strained right shoulder, gave the Clippers 35 minutes of scrappy defense, rebounding and transition offense. He grabbed nine rebounds and had 14 points, including three consecutive layups in the second quarter off of offensive rebounds and a runner off a dish from Eric Bledsoe in the fourth quarter.
Turiaf, relegated to limited minutes over the last two games, entered with 9:47 left in the game after Ryan Hollins fouled out. He promptly tipped in two missed shots by Jamal Crawford, grabbed three rebounds and caused havoc on the defensive end. He preserved a possession by throwing a ball off Tiago Splitter. Five minutes later, he was back on the bench, workman-like job accomplished.
“That’s why I keep telling ya’ll, man, your locker room makes a huge difference,” Paul said. “You’ve got to have professionals. Ronny’s not sitting over there on the bench pouting. He’s cheering, being a great teammate and when his number’s called, he’s ready to go.”
Superstar Blake Griffin echoed Paul’s assessment of Turiaf.
“When you see somebody not complain and not get as much playing time as maybe they would like and they just don’t complain, they go out the next game and do what we need them to do,” Griffin said. “It makes you play at another level.”
Perhaps that’s what has separated the Clippers these first 10 games from other teams in the league. They have a willingness to compete and to do so for one another.
“We have a lot of talent, but we have guys that are smart,” Griffin said. “We have veteran players and on this team playing time’s tough, it’s hard to split it around. But if you stay ready, then you’re going to have nights like that and that’s what wins games.”
On Monday night in San Antonio, it was Turiaf and Barnes’ night. They were active, “ready” and according to Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, accounted for several “little” plays that do not show up in the box score. They also grabbed six of the Clippers’ season-high 17 offensive rebounds and turned all six into points.
Barnes said controlling the rebounding edge can be disheartening for an opponent. “You play great defense for however many seconds and when the ball goes up on the backboard, if you don’t finish the possession with a rebound you’re going to hurt your team. I think I got a few [offensive rebounds], [Eric Bledsoe] had a few at the end, Ronny came off the bench after not playing and had two put-backs and those are what we need.”
Those plays set the stage for Paul’s turnaround in the final 30 seconds, and he knew it. His smile afterwards proved it.