Chris Paul, Clips beat Warriors 105-86 in opener

Blake Griffin offered up a reminder for all those expecting an

immediate transformation now that Chris Paul is part of the Los

Angeles Clippers.

”Not every game is going to be just alley-oop left and right,”

Griffin said.

Griffin, CP3 and Co. are far from a finished product. They

certainly showed signs of the talented team this can be on both

ends of the floor.

Paul had 20 points and nine assists in his highly anticipated

debut, Griffin added 22 points and seven rebounds and the Clippers

beat the Golden State Warriors 105-86 on Sunday night to spoil Mark

Jackson’s opener as a first-time coach.

”While we try to figure each other out and learn guys’ hot

spots and stuff like that, we want to win at the same time,” Paul

said. ”We just keep talking about `We’ve just got to find a way to

win, regardless of how it looks, how ugly the game is”’

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 a point at 78-77 with 9:35 left on Brandon Rush’s

3-pointer before Los Angeles pulled away.

It was hardly a spectacular opener for Los Angeles, though coach

Vinny Del Negro will take methodical any day. These new-look

Clippers hope to shine as Los Angeles’ other NBA team, perhaps no

longer the Lakers’ stepchild.

”We grinded it out defensively when we needed to,” Del Negro

said. ”We controlled the tempo in the fourth quarter. I just know

we can play better.”

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 joining the Clippers in a Dec. 14

trade from New Orleans.

Billups scored 21 points and hit a key 3-pointer late for Los

Angeles, which plays at San Antonio on Wednesday night before

returning for four in a row and seven of eight at Staples

Center.

Paul had a quiet 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.

”Just try to manage the game. It’s not my first rodeo, it’s

seven years,” Paul said. ”This is the first year I think I’ve had

as many options as I do.”

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 a point again at 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

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.

”We are a team right now that plays in spurts. The great teams

don’t do that, it gets you in trouble,” Jackson said. ”There are

times we look like we really understand what we’re trying to

accomplish and then there are times … we look like a lost

basketball team.”

Jackson’s 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.

”We understand this is the night when the lights turned on,”

Curry said. ”It didn’t feel like we were unprepared or anything,

we just didn’t have our best performance in the fourth

quarter.”

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.

”I think the biggest thing that killed us was our rebounding,”

Paul said. ”Our rebounding was horrendous. Our defense wasn’t as

nice as we’d have liked it to be. We were good in spurts. It’s a

tough environment.”

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

consensual. … 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

Butler. Jordan had eight blocks, six points and five rebounds. He

was 4 of 12 from the free-throw line.