Paul, Billups ‘seamless’ in LA playoff push
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Chris Paul has won a Rookie of the Year award and been an All-Star Game MVP.
What he wants is what the other point guard in the Los Angeles Clippers’ lineup has – an NBA Finals MVP award – and a championship to celebrate along with it.
Chauncey Billups, 36, became Mr. Big Shot when he led the Detroit Pistons to an upset triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals, with Billups taking MVP honors in the series.
Now it is Chris Paul, 27, who is Mr. Big Shot for the Clippers, the latest example being his buzzer-beating, off-balance runner that beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night and gave the Clippers a 2-0 lead in what has been touted as perhaps the best first-round series in the NBA playoffs. Game 3 is Thursday night in Memphis.
Together, Paul and Billups believe they have the talent, experience, smarts and toughness to come through in the clutch and take Paul where he’s never been – beyond the second round of the NBA playoffs – and perhaps to the point where one Finals MVP can see the torch passed to his backcourt partner.
“Our chemistry is great – not good, great,” Billups says of playing alongside Paul. “We’re both point guards and we’re used to really thinking the games.”
While Paul in two years has transformed the Clippers into a title contender, Billups has played in just 42 games the past two regular seasons because of a torn Achilles tendon last season and a variety of ailments this season. He got healthy in time for these playoffs, and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t hesitate putting a former NBA champion — Billups has averaged 17.7 points and 5.8 assists in 142 career playoff games –into the starting lineup.
“Chauncey takes pressure off everybody, just because of his experience,” Del Negro says. “He can handle the ball, make plays, get Chris live-ball catches. You have to guard him, especially at the end of games. He’s such a great free throw shooter, and he can make plays for you.
“I think it’s a good calming … [For more on Paul, Billups 'seamless' in Clippers playoff push, click here.]