The love was coming Eric Bledsoe's way before and after the Clippers' 102-83 victory over Toronto on Sunday, but apparently one birthday present will have to wait.
"Chris [Paul] is going to surprise me later on," said Bledsoe, who turned 23 on Sunday.
Paul chimed in, saying: "I've got him, don't worry about it."
Bledsoe: "I'm looking forward to that."
Bledsoe, the fast-running engine of the Clippers' reserves, had 14 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals in nearly 20 minutes of action. And, impressively, no turnovers.
He has played on his birthday before, and Sunday's game shot to the top of the list. "This is by far the best one," Bledsoe said. "It was my dream to always play here, and to do it on my birthday is just fantastic."
Teammate Matt Barnes said, almost matter-of-factly, that Bledsoe was learning so much under the tutelage of Paul: "He is going to be an All-Star one day."
The injured Chauncey Billups, another one of Bledsoe's tutors, spoke expansively about Bledsoe's progress.
"He's really, really a freak athlete," Billups said. "I haven't seen many players over the course of my career with the kind of athleticism he has. I see something new from him every night."
Experience is the best tutor, of course.
"I can tell him, 'Look out for this or be ready for this or they're going to do this,'" Billups said. "And have the antennas up. Until that happens, he'll come back and say, 'Dang, Chauncey, you know what they did.' I'll say, 'Yeah, I told you to look for it.'"
Billups said he was talking with a member of the training staff about the best athlete on the team: Bledsoe or [Blake] Griffin. (Griffin, by the way, gave some support to DeAndre Jordan.) "It's too close to call, man. Too close to call," Billups said.
A streak ends
Jamal Crawford had a feeling his free-throw run was running on fumes before it officially ended, in the second quarter, at 58 straight, a Clippers record.
"Unbelievable," he said. "After I hadn't missed in a month and after I miss one, I miss the second one. It's amazing how that works. ... I knew at some point I was going to miss. ... I could tell the way the ones were going in before, they were hitting the front rim, 'Oh, it [a miss] is coming.'"