Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, Marco Belinelli, and Aaron Gray. All of these names have one thing in common. Each and every one of them scored off of Chris Paul assists during game four of the first round of the 2011 playoffs series against the second seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
The Hornets entered the game down 2-1 in the series, and desperately trying to avoid a 3-1 hole. Just one season earlier Kobe Bryant the had led the Lakers to the finals, and defeated the Celtics in a seven game series, so things were going to be tough on Paul and his team.
But Paul was determined to win the game, and come closer to dethroning the champs, leading to him getting off to a rather quick start in his favorite category, assists. Just three minutes into the game, Paul had two assists, and the New Orleans Hornets were tied 4-4 with the Lakers, setting the tone for how the night would go.
In the second quarter, Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza connected on one of the best plays of the night. Everything started with 16 seconds left on the shot clock in the middle of the second quarter, when Ariza came to the top of the key where Paul was busy staring at the defense to find an avenue to attack and deal the most damage.
Ariza set a screen,and from there the play was over. Ron Artest misread which direction Steve Blake had intended on moving, and instead of Blake rolling with Ariza to the basket, Ariza was left wide open to catch a perfect pass from Paul. With the ball in his hands, Ariza took one dribble, double clutched the ball under Andrew Bynum and slammed home an emphatic dunk that sent the crowd into deafening roars.
By halftime Paul had racked up a total of four points, nine assists, and six rebounds and he was just getting started.
In the second half, Paul turned on the jets and willed the Hornets to a victory. Paul came out to a very quick start after halftime but would fell back into the rhythm of the game as the third quarter wound on. Just 25 seconds into the third quarter and with one second left on the shot clock, Paul drilled a three to put New Orleans up seven.
The Hornets eventually went up nine before not scoring for nearly four minutes of game time to fall behind. But there was Paul to the rescue. He nailed two step back jumpers in a row to push the lead back up to three, grabbed two more rebounds, and dished out an assist to DJ Mbenga. Paul would score only two more points in the third but it was enough to changed the game. After three he had 13 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds, already with a triple double.
CP3 came out quickly once again to start the fourth quarter, knocking in another shot from behind the arc to break a 69-69 tie. Still playing nearly perfect basketball, Paul would again hit two jump shots from just inside the arc, including an and-one, and with six minutes left in the game, the Hornets once again had a nine point lead.
After a stretch in which Paul drove to the basket and was fouled three times the Hornets looked to be in position to hold off the Lakers.
But as most champions do the Lakers made a late surge, something that required the attention of Chris Paul. After seeing their lead shrink to only two with 33 seconds left, the Hornets desperately needed a basket. But instead of forcing a look for himself, Paul made the right basketball play, like he always seems to do.
Paul drove to the basket, drawing the Lakers two massive rim protectors towards him. With the attention focused on him, Paul dumped the ball to a cutting Jarrett Jack who made his first field goal of the night, finishing the Lakers and capping off one of the best individual stat lines we have seen in the playoffs in the last 10 years.
27 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds and a victory. It was the type of game that gets remembered forever. It was the type of game that superstars play. It was one of the lasting memories of Chris Paul in New Orleans. It was magical.