Paul struggles, but still steers Clippers to victory

For 36 minutes, the Clippers couldn’t figure out a way for Chris Paul to score.

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Paul said. “I thought (the Trail Blazers) were doing a really good job of defending. I kept taking the ball on the sidelines, and that was playing right into their hands. I have to give them a lot of credit.”

But in the most important stretch of the game, the fourth quarter, Paul took over and delivered the Clippers’ a 74-71 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

“Had we lost, I would’ve beaten myself up,” Paul said. “I’m still mad I didn’t perform, but in the fourth quarter I was telling the guys that’s where it all matters.”

The Clippers’ backcourt of Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Paul combined to shoot 13-for-42 from the field, hitting just 2-of-13 from three-point range. Still, the team, led by Paul, managed to snap a six-game losing streak in Portland.

“It’s just a matter of time before Chris starts taking over the game,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “When it gets close he wants the ball in his hands — not only to score, but to make the easy plays.”

NOTES, QUOTES

   –The Clippers missed their first 13 three-point shots attempted Thursday. Mo Williams’ three with 3:45 left put the Clippers up 67-66.
   –The Clippers’ victories this year have been made for YouTube, with jaw-dropping highlights coming every few minutes. But Thursday in Portland, the Clippers had to fight for every point they scored.
   “We just grinded it out. Portland always plays tough up here,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We were just able to get enough stops in the second half and control our rebounding.”
   The Clippers shot just 38.5 percent in the win, scoring a season-low 32 points in the first half.
   “We just kept at it,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
   When the final horn sounded, the Clippers somehow found a way to win a game where nothing went right on the offensive end.
   “We played terrible in the first half,” Chirs Paul said. “On the road you just have to keep it close, and we gave ourselves an opportunity.”
   QUOTE TO NOTE: “You know a game is never over. We just kept chipping away. That was a great win for us.” — Forward Blake Griffin, on the Clippers’ comeback win over Portland Thursday.

ROSTER REPORT
   PLAYER NOTES:

   –G Chris Paul was held scoreless for the first three quarters Thursday at Portland. Paul scored all 13 of his points in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ win.
   –F Blake Griffin finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Griffin has 19 double-doubles this season.
   –C DeAndre Jordan blocked four shots Thursday. Jordan also scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds.
   –G Randy Foye’s shooting woes continued. Foye scored just six points on 3-of-12 shooting.
   MEDICAL WATCH:
   –G Chauncey Billups (left Achilles’ tendon) underwent surgery Wednesday to repair his Achilles’ tendon. Billups is out for the remainder of the season.
   ROTATION:
   Starters:
   –Point guard Chris Paul
   –Shooting guard Randy Foye   
   –Small forward Caron Butler  
   –Power forward Blake Griffin
   –Center DeAndre Jordan
   Bench:
   –Guard Mo Williams
   –Forward Kenyon Martin
   –Forward Reggie Evans
   –Forward Ryan Gomes