Paul scored a season-high 40 points and added 13 assists with eight rebounds to propel the Los Angeles Clippers to a 117-107 victory Friday night.
Paul injured his forearm against Denver on Wednesday night and skipped the Friday morning shootaround to get treatment on his right arm and rest his sore left calf and bruised left thigh.
By game time, he was clearly ready to go.
"Just play. Just play. Once they throw up the ball, everything else is out the window," said Paul, who finished three points shy of his career high. "I've had games like this before. They were leaving me open so I was shooting."
Sparked by the scoring and playmaking of Paul, and considerable hustle at the defensive end, the Clippers ran off 20 consecutive points in the third quarter to break the game open. The lead remained in double digits the rest of the way.
Sacramento had no answer for the dynamic Paul, typically a pass-first point guard. But not in this game, when he kept the Clippers close in the first half with 23 points. Paul finished with four 3-pointers, made 13 of 20 shots overall and hit all 10 free throws in frustrating the Kings all night.
"I always think he should be more aggressive every night," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who wasn't surprised by Paul's effectiveness in 36 minutes. "Chris won the game for us in the first half. He came out really aggressive. In the second half the other guys joined in. He's a tough kid. He knows we have a couple of days off and he can rest up."
DeMarcus Cousins narrowly missed his fifth career triple-double, getting 26 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Kings. Rudy Gay scored 23, Seth Curry had a career-high 19 and Darren Collison 18.
After playing a great first half on offense, the Kings fell apart in the third quarter when they were outscored 34-16. The aggressive Clippers forced six turnovers and Sacramento shot 4 of 14.
"In the second half, the Clippers got better control and I'm sure they got challenged by Doc in the locker room," Kings coach George Karl said. "We just never got anybody going and Chris got control of the game. So much of their scoring in the third quarter came off transition following our missed shots."
It didn't help that the Kings played without point guard Rajon Rondo (right thumb tendinitis), who leads the NBA with 12 assists per game. His X-rays were negative and his status is day to day. The thumb has been bothering Rondo for nearly three weeks.
Jeff Green scored 22 points, Jamal Crawford had 21 and J.J. Redick added 16 for Los Angeles. The Clippers, who had dropped three of five, have beaten the Kings seven straight games in Sacramento and 19 of 23 overall.
Every game has become crucial for the Kings. They are 4 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 25 games remaining.
After the Kings took a 72-64 lead early in the third quarter, the Clippers scored 20 straight points before Gay converted a finger roll at the 4:04 mark. Paul had 13 points and eight assists in the quarter, and Los Angeles took a 98-83 advantage into the fourth.
"He's smart. We did a decent enough job on him early in the game, but if you keep giving him the same look he's going to figure it out eventually," Curry said. "Obviously, it was tough to stop him and it was kind of an easy night for him."
Clippers: The recently acquired Green made his first start with the Clippers after coming off the bench in the previous three games. ... Paul Pierce wasn't with the team for personal reasons. An 18-year veteran, Pierce is playing just under 18 minutes per game, the lowest mark of his career. ... Coming off a franchise high for 3-point attempts (13 of 46) in Tuesday's loss to Denver, the Clippers missed their first eight before Paul connected with 4:04 left in the second quarter.
Kings: Cousins had 11 first-quarter shots, including four straight missed tips on one frustrating possession. ... Curry scored 11 first-half points, surpassing his previous career high of nine. ... Veteran forward Caron Butler has not played in 28 straight games due to coach's decision. His last game was a 6-minute stint Dec. 21 against Washington.
Clippers: Host Boston on Monday.
Kings: Host Oklahoma City on Monday.
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