This gets categorized along with water is wet, pain hurts, stealing is not nice: The Clippers are a better team with Chris Paul.

Paul returned Friday from a nine-game absence due to a knee injury during which the Clips went 3-6. If ever there were an argument for Paul’s MVP status, that was it. He had a so-so effort in his return against the Heat as the Clippers got waxed.

But yesterday at the Garden, Paul was back in top CP3 form. And so were the Clippers.

“He was much more aggressive,” Jamal Crawford said. “He set the tone early. He had nine of our first 12 points. That’s why he’s an MVP candidate. Whenever he’s out there he brings a different quality we need.”

In the Clippers’ 102-88 victory, Paul brought 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds and big play after big play down the stretch. When the Knicks made their last real gasp, closing to within six with 2:48 left, Paul responded with the next five points (plus a steal) to put the game beyond reach.

“I thrive for those situations, to be the closer and win games,” said Paul, who played a total of 29:19 as he remains on a minutes restriction, which the Clippers hope to lift depending on how he responds.

The big-game effort for Paul was a little special because he did it in a place her absolutely adores: the Garden.

“Being here in the Garden helps, too, you get that adrenaline going,” Paul said. “Last year, we played here the last game of the season, and I was injured. I didn’t get a chance to play. So I couldn’t wait to play this one.”