Last night in a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Chris Paul made NBA history.
No player in the league’s history has started off the season with 12 consecutive points-assists double-doubles as Paul surpassed Los Angeles Lakers legend, and widely-acclaimed “best point guard of all-time”, Magic Johnson who had 11 straight during the 1990-91 season.
For a fun exercise I decided to compared the two streaks to provide perspective on how amazing a feat Chris Paul has done (Remember that Paul’s extended to 12 games while Magic did it for 11 straight).
Los Angeles Clippers: Doc Rivers
Los Angeles Lakers: Mike Dunleavy
Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Los Angeles Lakers: Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, A.C. Green, Vlade Divac
Record During the Streak:
Los Angeles Clippers: 8-4
Los Angeles Lakers: 6-5
Most Points in a Game:
Chris Paul: 42 vs. Golden State Warriors
Magic Johnson: 25 vs. Sacramento Kings
There is a common misconception amongst NBA fans — at least those my age, 22 — that think Magic Johnson couldn’t score. Despite me not having ever seen Magic play live, even I know that’s false. Yes he was a pass-first point guard, but Johnson picked and chose his moments when to takeover games on the offensive end. The 25 points here is no shock to me and is quite close to his season average of 19.4 points.
As for Paul, well, I’ll let the highlights do the speaking here:
Most Assists in a Game:
Chris Paul: 17 vs. Houston Rockets
Magic Johnson: 22 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
The closest we’ve gotten to 22 assists is a game with the current set of stars in the NBA was Rajon Rondo who collected 20 assists twice during the 2012-13 NBA season. Seventeen is nothing to scoff at though as only Paul and Ty Lawson have had 17 assists in a game this season. For Paul, 17 is four short of his career-high 21, gained as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
For Magic Johnson, 22 is short of his career-high 24 assists. While few players have collected 20+ assists since 2000 (16 players to be exact), Magic did it 13 times. Considering the talent Magic had around him since he was drafted in 1979 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Mychal Thompson, etc.) I’m surprised that number isn’t higher.
Highest Scoring Teammate During Stretch:
CP3: Blake Griffin (22.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists over 12 games)
Magic: James Worthy (25 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists over 11 games)
Blake’s got a long way to go before he reaches “Big Game” James Worthy status.
Looking at the numbers and considering the positions both play, you could say that the two were playing at an equal level. Four years prior, James Worthy was the recipient of the NBA Finals MVP award, making his place in the NBA. Worthy’s 90-91 season could be considered his last “elite” one before his scoring dropped off. Worthy eventually retired three years later.
For Griffin, barring injury, he has a long ways to go and in this stretch he’s playing the best basketball of his career. While Chris Paul is the best player on the Clippers, like Worthy was to Magic, people expect Griffin to be the perfect compliment to CP. And they expect him to come up big as Worthy did in the 1988 NBA Finals. It’s the only way people will respect Blake as a player.
CP3: 11 points (3-11 FG, 0-3 3P), 5 assists, 12 rebounds, 2 steals
Magic: 10 points (2-9 FG, 0-6 3P), 8 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals
Similar numbers from the then-and-now best point guards in the league.
Paul’s “bad” game came against the defending champion Miami Heat. With their trap-and-blitz screen and the lack of a second ball-handler in the offense, Paul struggled mightily. The Clippers lost the game.
For Magic, the game came against a 5-3 Dallas Mavericks team that featured Rolando Blackman and Derek Harper as the team’s two highest scorers. Magic was never known as a three-point threat though the shot improved throughout his career. It’s surprising to see him take that many threes in a game. I’ll assume that they forced him to do it.
End Season Result
Lakers: NBA Finals Loss
For Magic Johnson it was his ninth NBA finals appearance and his fourth loss, taking a 4-1 loss to the buzz saw that would become Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Injuries to James Worthy and Byron Scott create the “what-if” syndrome regarding if the Lakers could’ve defeated Jordan and company, but without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pat Riley alongside Magic, it was quite the feat. for him to be there. AIDS kept Magic from returning the next season.
While losing in the Finals isn’t a thing a team wishes for, this would be the greatest moment in the Clippers franchise history if done. It’s why the Clips traded picks for Doc Rivers. They wanted his championship pedigree to be embedded on the players who’ve all failed to have any true success in their careers. The season is young, making a prediction on if they’ll be the Western Conference’s final team come June, but this group would love to follow the steps of Magic and his ’91 Lakers.