WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chris Paul had called the game a "must-win," which sounded like an overstatement considering it was just one of 82 the Clippers play this season and it's still December.
But Paul played like it was the most important game of the season, putting on a show with moves that left the crowd cheering everything he did in directing the Clippers to a 113-97 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.
Paul finished with 38 points, making 11 of his 14 shots and five of his seven three-point attempts. He also had 12 assists, three rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes 49 seconds of efficient basketball. He was 11 for 11 from the free-throw line.
BOX SCORE: Clippers 113, Washington 97
Paul became the ninth player in NBA history since the 1985-86 season to score at least 38 points on 14 or fewer shot attempts.
He had made his "must-win" statement after the Clippers lost at Brooklyn on Thursday night because he wanted the L.A. team to finish its seven-game, 13-day trip feeling "decent" about it.
And the Clippers followed through, going 4-3 during their time away.
"We wanted to try to turn this from an OK trip into a good trip," Paul said. "We just wanted to win the game. That's what we went with, the mentality was win the game.
"It's a lot of factors too. It's a long flight back home. And we've got a lot of sore losers on this team. So we just wanted to come out and play the right way. I think we did for the most part."
Paul had plenty of help from his starting mates, all of whom scored in double figures.
The Clippers made a change to their starting lineup, inserting Jamal Crawford at shooting guard in place of Willie Green, who had started the last seven games in place of the injured J.J. Redick (broken right hand, torn ligaments on right side of wrist).
Crawford, making his first start of the season, had 17 points on six-for-14 shooting.
Blake Griffin had 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists; DeAndre Jordan had 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots; and Jared Dudley rebounded from a one-for-seven shooting night against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night to score 16 points on seven-for-10 shooting.
The Clippers shot 56.5% from the field, 42.9% (nine for 21) from the three-point line.
They built a 22-point lead in the third quarter, increased it to 23 in the fourth and coasted the rest of the way.
"I've seen [the Wizards] lose a couple [of games] toward the end. I've seen them win a couple toward the end," Paul said. "So we didn't want to make it into a game that could go either way."
Even the intentional fouling of Jordan three times in the third quarter with the Clippers ahead by 20 points didn't stop them from rolling to a 16-9 record.
Jordan was three for six from the free-throw line during that span.
All of that played a role in the Clippers flying home from the long, grueling trip as winners.
"Every time out, Blake Griffin was saying, 'No let up. We're the tired team. Let's not think about it. Let's keep playing,'" Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought those two guys [Paul and Griffin], just with their verbal leadership, were phenomenal before the game, during the game. It was good."