In the NBA's second season, a team needs at least two reliable shot-creators to win -- players capable of manufacturing an open look for themselves or for a teammate at will. For the Clippers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are those primary playmakers, guys that Doc can give the ball to and say, Make it happen (Jamal Crawford is the team's wildcard third option).
The Clips ultimately lost to the Thunder because their two primetime shot-creators did not do enough. As brilliantly as he played at times this series, Griffin still needs to develop a more refined offensive game before he can be the team's first option, and Paul too often deferred to less-talented teammates rather than looking to score himself.
In the first half of Game 6, the Clippers thoroughly outplayed the Thunder, but held only an 8-point lead going into the locker room; Paul, to that point, had scored just six points on 1 of 4 shooting. Think about that for a second: Chris Paul is supposedly a top five player in this league and certainly the best player on his team (Blake just isn't there yet, more on that later) and he only got four shots up in the first half of a closeout game! FOUR SHOTS!!! KD and Westbrook were a combined 4 for 16 from the field at that point -- the Thunder should have been on the ropes!
As a comparison, Matt Barnes went 2 for 7 and JJ Redick shot 4 for 8 in the first half. I'm pretty sure that Paul would agree, now that he's sitting at home with little Chris, watching their strange, schizophrenic commercials together, that the team would have been better off if he had just taken a few of those shots instead of Barnes.
I get it, Paul's game isn't predicated on scoring: he's an old school point guard that gets his teammates their touches early and then attacks late. Simply put, I think that is a bad strategy for Paul. He is the most potent and polished offensive weapon on his team and they need him to score (the dude shot almost 46 percent from downtown during the playoffs).
Blake, on the other hand, is still an unfinished product, though his game improved vastly this season. If he can extend his range to beyond the arc and hit the occasional open three (à la Rasheed) and if he keeps working on his handles, he could morph into a Lebron-Ultra-Light.
Right now, his game is still a bit too unrefined to be the number-one-option: at times his low post game can devolve into weird spin move flip shots around the rim, and he can get out of control when dribbling in the open court. Even with those mistakes, it was smart of Paul to keep feed him on the block until he learned to use his quickness to get around Ibaka and Steven Adam rather than trying to bowl them over. I also liked how Paul advanced the ball to him early on fast breaks and let Griffin improvise his way to the rim. Those were good unselfish decisions by CP3.
Paul understood that Blake is brimming with potential and he had to give the big fella' room to experiment and learn -- give him an opportunity to rise to the occasion in these playoffs. Blake did well and he has the chance to be an all-time great, but until then, Paul is still the Mayor of Lob City. More importantly, Paul's the alpha-dog of this team and when he plays like one and aggressively looks for his shot, good things happen to the Clipper offense.
In the two Clipper wins in this series, Paul was special scoring the ball. In Game 1, he looked for his shot early and went 6 for 7 from the field in the first quarter, leading the team in shot attempts. He finished the game with a team-high 32 points, shooting 12 of 14.
In Game 4, down 12 heading into the fourth, Paul pick-and-rolled the Thunder into submission: scoring on four drives in the paint; after Ibaka finally committed to halt his drive, Paul only then dropped the pocket pass off to Griffin for a dunk. In these two wins, Paul made the plays necessary for the team to win. Sometimes that meant passing it, but more often than not, it meant that, as the best player on the team, he needed to take on more of the scoring responsibility.
Pass-first point guards like Chris Paul simply don't win championships in today's NBA. Over the last 23 years, only three point guards have won Finals MVP: Isiah Thomas in 1990, Chauncey Billups in 2004 and Tony Parker in 2007. Put another way: no all-time great, pass-first point guard has won an NBA title since Magic in 1988 (Thomas, Billups and Parker -- though all great passers -- are each known more for their scoring rather than their passing abilities and were certainly not pass-first guards). It's been 25 years since a player like Chris Paul has won a title -- and that player also had nine inches and two Hall of Fame teammates over CP3. Might be time to switch up your style, Cliff.