Lakers still pursuing LeBron James, but Paul George decides to stay in Oklahoma City

Conventional wisdom suggested for many months that LeBron James would sign with the Lakers only if they could add another top-tier free agent and lure a third player in a trade in order to form a “super team” capable of challenging the Golden State Warriors for NBA supremacy.

Saturday, before the opening minutes of the free agency negotiating window, Paul George agreed to a new four-year, $137-million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder without bothering to listen to the Lakers’ free-agent pitch. So, scratch his name from the Lakers’ wish list.

The Lakers might now target DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans. David Griffin, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ former GM, was among those suggesting as much Saturday on NBA TV. “There’s a possibility that what gets it done in L.A. is pairing ‘Boogie’ with LeBron,” Griffin said, using Cousin’s nickname.

Cousins, who was having an All-Star season before suffering a torn Achilles tendon in late January, has scheduled meetings with the Lakers and Pelicans, according to ESPN. Many athletes who tear an Achilles must undergo physical therapy for a year or more before the leg recovers enough to compete, but Cousins has been telling people he expects to be ready in time for training camp, regardless of where he is playing.  The Lakers likely would be interested in a short-term deal with Cousins.

The Lakers could persuade James to agree to a deal of up to $153 million over four years (though most expect him to sign a two-year with an opt-out), with their youthful roster largely intact for 2018-19. They could then re-sign restricted free agent Julius Randle and take another run at free agency a year from now, when the class is expected to be deeper (Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns).

Players can negotiate and agree to deals all week but can’t sign contracts until Friday at 9 a.m. PT.

James returned Saturday from a family vacation/strategy session on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, with a crowd of reporters and at least one news helicopter awaiting the arrival of his private jet at Van Nuys Airport. James has a home in the Los Angeles area and spends his offseasons here.

George made his announcement at a house party thrown by fellow Southern California native Russell Westbrook in George’s honor in Oklahoma City. George, from Palmdale, posted a photo of himself and Westbrook celebrating with cigars at the party. A caption read, “Unfinished business.”

George forced his way out of Indiana last year by telling the Pacers he planned to become a free agent this summer and sign with the Lakers. The Pacers then refused to trade George to the Lakers, instead sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he joined Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder lost to Utah in the first round of the playoffs, but the Thunder recruited George heavily during and after the 2017-18 season.

It’s believed Westbrook made a persuasive argument for George to stay.

The Lakers never got a chance to present their case when the free-agent negotiating period opened at 9:01 p.m. PT on Saturday. Agreeing to a so-called “max” deal with George was assumed to be the first move that sealed the deal on an agreement with James.

The second move was the possible acquisition of disgruntled forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs. Talks heated up during the past week, but there was no deal in place amid speculation that Leonard could be headed to Los Angeles, but to the Clippers rather than the Lakers.

In moves calculated to address the possible loss of Leonard in a trade, the Spurs agreed to deals Saturday with free agents Rudy Gay (one year, $10 million) and Marco Belinelli of the Philadelphia 76ers (two years, $12 million).

Meanwhile, other possible, although less likely, free agents the Lakers could pair with James made their decisions quickly, and they weren’t nearly as surprising as George’s announcement that he would stay with the Thunder rather than join his hometown team.

For instance, Chris Paul agreed to return to the Houston Rockets on a four-year, $160-million deal and DeAndre Jordan agreed to a one-year deal that approached the $24.1 million he would have received if he opted in on his contract with the Clippers for 2018-19.

Earlier in the day, the Lakers announced they had waived center Thomas Bryant and they reportedly agreed to guarantee center Ivica Zubac’s $1.5-million contract for next season. Bryant has one season remaining on his contract and can be claimed by another NBA team.

Teams that might be interested in pursuing Randle appeared to be spending money on other options Saturday night, with Indiana (Doug McDermott), Brooklyn (Joe Harris, Ed Davis) and Phoenix (Trevor Ariza) agreeing to deals with other players and former Clippers center DeAndre Jordan quickly coming to terms with the Dallas Mavericks, as expected.

Randle can sign an offer sheet once the moratorium ends that the Lakers would have 48 hours to match.

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Rockets confront Austin Rivers, Blake Griffin in Clippers’ locker room

Tempers flared at the end of Monday’s Rockets-Clippers game and, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, those tempers extended into the locker room. James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green reportedly pushed into the Clippers’ locker room looking for Austin Rivers, who was apparently talking trash at Ariza during the final moments of the fourth quarter.

Houston Rockets’ players James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green pushed into Clippers locker room post-game looking to confront Austin Rivers, league sources tell ESPN. Security escorted Rockets out before anything turned physical.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2018

Rockets players were clamoring for Blake Griffin too, league sources said. Chris Paul also entered with other Rockers players through a backstory that connects team dressing rooms. https://t.co/BRgyHe1WgL

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2018

Entered through a back door, to be clear.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2018

Sources: As the four Rockets marched through the back hallway into the Clippers locker room, center Clint Capela knocked on the front door of Clippers entrance. Someone opened door, saw him standing there — and shut it on him.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2018

Things reached a boiling point after Griffin was ejected in the final minute of the fourth quarter for jawing with Ariza, who was exchanging words with Rivers and Patrick Beverley.

Austin Rivers bout that life talking trash to Trevor Ariza pic.twitter.com/s6o2dKtDWG

— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 16, 2018

According to several reporters on the scene, Harden – who was inactive – and Chris Paul got into an argument when he walked into the locker room after the Rockets’ 113-102 loss to the Clippers.

Things then escalated, with additional reports eventually surfacing the Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer was in the hallways leading to the locker rooms with security and police officers.

Two actual police officers involved, not Staples red coats… I didn’t get to see exactly what happened myself but plenty of energy in the air here

— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) January 16, 2018

It was initially reported that James Harden and Chris Paul had gotten into an altercation by multiple reporters on the scene. However, Paul denied he any dust-up between he and Harden.

Chris Paul on reports that he had a confrontation with James Harden in the locker room: “That’s Donald Trump fake news.” With a laugh, he added, “Tell him I’m looking for him!”

— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 16, 2018

This isn’t the first time the Rockets have confronted another team. There was a similar situation against the Mavericks last season.

Clint Capela was sent for a diversion while the others tried to break in the back door. The NBA is the best. https://t.co/ev7E38eyyk

— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 16, 2018

 

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How Chris Paul’s aggressiveness sparked Clippers’ Game 2 victory against Jazz

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, left, works around Utah Jazz’s George Hill during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS116

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, left, works around Utah Jazz’s George Hill during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS116

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, right, gets a rebound against Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS106

    Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, right, gets a rebound against Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS106

  • Clippers forward Blake Griffin goes up for a shot over Utah Jazz guard George Hill, center Boris Diaw (No. 33) and forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half of Game 2 of their first-round playoff series on Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Clippers forward Blake Griffin goes up for a shot over Utah Jazz guard George Hill, center Boris Diaw (No. 33) and forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half of Game 2 of their first-round playoff series on Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin #32 goes up to dunk the ball over Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson #6 while LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan #6 look on in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin #32 goes up to dunk the ball over Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson #6 while LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan #6 look on in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin #32 goes up for a shot against Utah Jazz guard George Hill #3, Utah Jazz center Boris Diaw #33 and Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors #15 in the first half of game 2 in the first round playoff game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin #32 goes up for a shot against Utah Jazz guard George Hill #3, Utah Jazz center Boris Diaw #33 and Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors #15 in the first half of game 2 in the first round playoff game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan #6 dunks in the first half of a first round playoff game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers center DeAndre Jordan #6 dunks in the first half of a first round playoff game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers guard Raymond Felton #2 drives to the lane against Utah Jazz guard George Hill #3 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers guard Raymond Felton #2 drives to the lane against Utah Jazz guard George Hill #3 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers guard Chris Paul #3 is called for a foul against Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward #20 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers guard Chris Paul #3 is called for a foul against Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward #20 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers guard Jamal Crawford #11 has the ball taken away by Utah Jazz guard George Hill #3 and Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood #5 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers guard Jamal Crawford #11 has the ball taken away by Utah Jazz guard George Hill #3 and Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood #5 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers forward Paul Pierce #34 tries to get a shot off against Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson #6 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers forward Paul Pierce #34 tries to get a shot off against Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson #6 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers forward Paul Pierce #34 drives to the hoop past Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey #24 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers forward Paul Pierce #34 drives to the hoop past Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey #24 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder looks at referee Monty McCutchen #13 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder looks at referee Monty McCutchen #13 in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, center, drives to the basket past Utah Jazz’s Boris Diaw, left, as Jazz guard George Hill watches during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS102

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, center, drives to the basket past Utah Jazz’s Boris Diaw, left, as Jazz guard George Hill watches during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS102

  • LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers contests a call in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers contests a call in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • LA Clippers guard Raymond Felton #2 and LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers contest a call in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    LA Clippers guard Raymond Felton #2 and LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers contest a call in the first half at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/18/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, center, dunks against the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS103

    Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, center, dunks against the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS103

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, right, blocks a shot by Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS104

    Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, right, blocks a shot by Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS104

  • Utah Jazz’s Boris Diaw, left, drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS105

    Utah Jazz’s Boris Diaw, left, drives against Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS105

  • Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors, left, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS107

    Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors, left, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS107

  • Utah Jazz’s Joe Johnson, right, is pressured by Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS109

    Utah Jazz’s Joe Johnson, right, is pressured by Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS109

  • Utah Jazz’s George Hill, left, drives to the basket past Los Angeles Clippers’ JJ Redick during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS108

    Utah Jazz’s George Hill, left, drives to the basket past Los Angeles Clippers’ JJ Redick during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS108

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, right, high-fives Raymond Felton after making a basket during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS110

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin, right, high-fives Raymond Felton after making a basket during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS110

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan dunks as Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors, bottom left, and George Hill watch during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS111

    Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan dunks as Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors, bottom left, and George Hill watch during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS111

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin grabs a loose ball in front of Utah Jazz’s Rodney Hood, left, and Jeff Withey during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS112

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin grabs a loose ball in front of Utah Jazz’s Rodney Hood, left, and Jeff Withey during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS112

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Marreese Speights celebrates his 3-point basket against the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS113

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Marreese Speights celebrates his 3-point basket against the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS113

  • Utah Jazz’s Joe Johnson, center, loses the ball as he is pressured by Los Angeles Clippers’ Raymond Felton, right, and Blake Griffin during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS114

    Utah Jazz’s Joe Johnson, center, loses the ball as he is pressured by Los Angeles Clippers’ Raymond Felton, right, and Blake Griffin during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS114

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, center, struggles with the ball as DeAndre Jordan, left, screens Utah Jazz’s Rodney Hood during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS115

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, center, struggles with the ball as DeAndre Jordan, left, screens Utah Jazz’s Rodney Hood during the first half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS115

  • Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles, left, shoots over Los Angeles Clippers’ Marreese Speights during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS118

    Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles, left, shoots over Los Angeles Clippers’ Marreese Speights during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS118

  • Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward, top, looks to pass under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers’ Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, left, and Chris Paul during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS117

    Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward, top, looks to pass under pressure from Los Angeles Clippers’ Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, left, and Chris Paul during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS117

  • Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers reacts to a play during the second half in Game 2 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS119

    Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers reacts to a play during the second half in Game 2 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS119

  • Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul gestures for possession of the ball during the second half in Game 2 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS120

    Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul gestures for possession of the ball during the second half in Game 2 of the team’s NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS120

  • Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward, center right, is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS121

    Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward, center right, is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan during the second half in Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Tuesday, April 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 99-91. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: LAS121

  • Clippers point guard Chris Paul argues against against a foul call during the first half of Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    Clippers point guard Chris Paul argues against against a foul call during the first half of Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Staples Center. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Jamal Crawford #11 of the LA Clippers scores on a jump hook over Jeff Withey #24 of the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Jamal Crawford #11 of the LA Clippers scores on a jump hook over Jeff Withey #24 of the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the LA Clippers dunks in front of Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: DeAndre Jordan #6 of the LA Clippers dunks in front of Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Head coach Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz looks up at the clock during the first half against the LA Clippers in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Head coach Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz looks up at the clock during the first half against the LA Clippers in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Raymond Felton #2 of the LA Clippers drives to the basket on George Hill #3 of the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Raymond Felton #2 of the LA Clippers drives to the basket on George Hill #3 of the Utah Jazz during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz has his shot blocked by DeAndre Jordan #6 of the LA Clippers during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz has his shot blocked by DeAndre Jordan #6 of the LA Clippers during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES — Whether he pulled up for a shot, set up a teammate or warded off his defender with his ball-handling skills, Clippers point guard Chris Paul had one thought racing through his mind.

“Just trying to be aggressive,” Paul said.

That thought process never stopped as the Clippers secured a 99-91 Game 2 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at Staples Center and evened the best-of-7 series, 1-1.

Paul finished with 21 points and 10 assists, going 9 for 15 from the field, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range. Paul opened the first three minutes of the game sinking an 18-foot-jumper, a 27-foot 3-pointer, forcing a turnover and setting up DeAndre Jordan with a lob. Paul helped close the game making a 3-pointer and a fallaway jumper to give the Clippers a 94-86 lead with 4:19 left. In between, he provided a blend of scoring and playmaking that helped fuel Blake Griffin (24 points) and Jordan (18) to big nights while the Clippers scored 60 points in the paint.

“I was trying to just stay on the court to tell you the truth,” Paul said.

Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute also observed Paul was also trying to rectify the Clippers’ Game 1 loss on Saturday. Though Paul had 25 points and 11 assists on 10-of-19 shooting in the series opener, it wasn’t as steady blend. After doling out 10 assists in the first half, he only had one the rest of the night. Held to five points in the first half, he scored 20 after halftime.

“He came out tonight and was really aggressive. We need him to do that,” Mbah a Moute said. “Sometimes he gets caught up in trying to get everybody involved and gets guys going. But when he comes out and plays aggressive, that helps a lot.”

It also helped that Paul did not allow two first-quarter fouls to dial back his aggressiveness. Though he went scoreless in the second quarter as he sat on the bench for nearly seven minutes, Paul had 14 points and three assists in the second half (6 for 10 shooting).

“He was good through adversity, which I thought was really good,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He got in foul trouble early, and we weathered that storm as a team. He had to weather the storm, sitting. Those uneven minutes for guys throw you off, and I thought it never threw him off. I thought he kept his rhythm, he kept his patience, he kept his peace.”

Paul did not keep his peace about one thing, though.

Afterward, Paul warned of a hostile environment for Game 3 on Friday in Utah, calling the Jazz’s passionate fan base “homers.” Somehow, Jazz fans on social media misconstrued that commentary as a slight instead of a compliment.

“That means they like their team. Why even try that, though?” Paul said to a reporter. “I’ve said that before, they’re homers, and I say when you go play there, you don’t really see opposing teams’ jerseys; know what I mean? They support their team, which is good; know what I mean? How can you take that in another way?”

The assembled reporters did not. Several Jazz fans did.

“When I go there, I don’t see like too many Clippers’ jerseys,” Paul clarified. “They really support their team, and it’s always been that. Yeah, you’re reaching if you’re thinking that’s something else. You’ve got to get a different hashtag. Come on, man.”

No one misconstrued Paul’s game, however.

“We always want Chris aggressive. He’s smart enough and good enough where he makes the right play,” Clippers forward Jamal Crawford said. “He doesn’t play with an agenda. He just plays and takes whatever is there. That’s what makes him one of the brilliant point guards that’s ever played.”

And that’s also what enabled the Clippers to avoid an 0-2 deficit against Utah.

“We moved the ball great, but all in all, I think our pace was pretty good all night,” Paul said. “Whether they scored, missed or what not, we just tried to keep the tempo and the pace up.”

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