The Clipper wearing No. 3 lost the ball, his lone recourse to grab Mario Chalmers for a clear-path foul with LeBron James already awaiting a fastbreak dunk.

The Clipper wearing No. 3 spun around Shane Battier only to barrel into Udonis Haslem for an offensive foul.

The Clipper wearing No. 3 juked out Chalmers twice before missing a pull-up jumper.

About the only moment when the Clipper dressed in the team's most revered jersey resembled Chris Paul on Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena was during a fiery exchange with an official in the third quarter, the star point guard contending he had been fouled by James while reaching for an outlet pass.

And that didn't go so well either, Paul receiving a technical foul after getting in the official's face.

Paul returned from a nine-game absence caused by a bruised right kneecap only to vanish for most of his 19 minutes during the Clippers' 111-89 loss to the Miami Heat.

"In these games," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said, "your top players have to play at a high level."

Paul barely registered a peep.

He scored a season-low three points, missing four of five shots.

He failed to make a steal after collecting at least one in 50 consecutive games.

He committed more turnovers (three) than assists (two) for the first time this season.

Perhaps most uncharacteristic of all, the Clippers' MVP didn't seem the least bit agitated after going MIA.

"I'm actually excited, you know what I mean?" Paul said after reporting that his knee felt fine. "Just that we're back on the court. For us, it's not about this game. It is what it is. We would have loved to win, but it's more about seeing what our team is about."

Well, if this was any indication of what's in store now that Paul, Chauncey Billups and Blake Griffin are back in the starting lineup, look out below in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers are headed in your direction.