Paul comes to the party

Guard scores 36 points to guide Clippers to easy win over Nuggets

Chris Paul poured salt into the wounds of the ailing Denver Nuggets with 36 points and nine assists to carry the Los Angeles Clippers to a much-needed 103-95 home win on Wednesday.

looking for an opening Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose (second from right) looks to pass the ball past Milwaukee Bucks’ defenders during their NBA match on Wednesday. AP

With the Clippers looking to avoid a third straight defeat, Paul took the game by the scruff of the neck with 17 straight Clippers' points spanning the final two quarters of a tight contest. "I got to the gym early today, I tried to get into a rhythm," Paul told reporters of his season-high point total. "I'm not going into games trying to get 30 points. I'm taking whatever the defense is giving me."

Los Angeles trailed 92-91 with about five minutes left, but Denver went ice cold at the Staples Center and were held without a point over a four-minute stretch where the Clippers (20-11) outscored them 8-0.

The Clippers' Blake Griffin, who will take part in this weekend's All Star festivities but will not defend his Slam Dunk Contest title, had 27 points and 12 rebounds to help repel Denver. "That's my one day off to spend time with my family," said Griffin, who will play in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge as well as the main event on Sunday with team mate Paul. "We've been alright (over the first half of the season), but we can be a lot better."

While Griffin and Paul scored the points, DeAndre Jordan manned the lane for Los Angeles with 10 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. The Nuggets (18-16) have been hit hard by injuries and were without key players Nene, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson. Arron Afflalo led Denver with 20 points and Jordan Hamilton had 18 as Denver lost for the fourth time in five games. Before the game, Nuggets coach George Karl said that Nene and Gallinari may return shortly after the All Star break, providing a much needed boost for the side who have fallen into a tie with Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

‘Practice makes perfect’

New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni is looking forward to some rare downtime following this weekend's All-Star game that will give him a chance to fit all the moving pieces of his team together for the second half of the season.

The Knicks, who were energized this month by the emergence of Jeremy Lin at point guard, are now faced with the task of blending in All-Star Carmelo Anthony and guard Baron Davis, both returning from injury, and newly signed swingman JR Smith.

But after Sunday's National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game, the Knicks will play just two games in a seven-day span, giving D'Antoni loads of time to make adjustments for the second half of the lockout-shortened 66-game season. "We get lucky right now," D'Antoni told reporters before Wednesday's game against the Atlanta Hawks. "Right when All-Star (game) is over, we'll have two practices, one game, and three practices. Now we got five practices and one game to kind of figure everything out and try to make a run toward the end and start really looking like a good team."

Before the Knicks (16-17) get to that post All-Star game stretch that allows for practice time, they meet the Hawks (19-13) then hit the road for a Thursday game against LeBron James and the red-hot Miami Heat (26-7). "These are gut-check moments," D'Antoni said about facing the Heat.

Results: Oklahoma City: 119 bt Boston: 104; Indiana: 102 bt Charlotte: 88; Toronto: 103 bt Detroit: 93; Sacramento: 115 bt Washington: 107; New Orleans: 89 bt Cleveland: 84; Orlando: 108 bt New Jersey: 91; New York Knocks: 99 bt  Atlanta: 82; Chicago: 110 bt Milwaukee: 91; Minnesota: 100 bt Utah: 98; Houston: 93 bt Philadelphia: 87; Golden State: 106 bt Phoenix: 104; LA Lakers: 96 bt Dallas: 91; LA Clippers: 103 bt Denver: 95.

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