The Clippers' demise seemed fairly certain Monday night. Multiple times.
They trailed the Phoenix Suns by five points in the fourth quarter while missing one of their top scorers after the oddly swift ejection of Jamal Crawford.
Then they were down by four points with less than a minute to go in overtime after failing to guard Markieff Morris on a corner three-pointer.
Somehow, they ended up swarming Blake Griffin in a wild celebration after his three-pointer at the overtime buzzer bounced into the basket. The Clippers had persevered through circumstances that might have crushed them earlier this season.
"The best part," Griffin said after the Clippers' 121-120 triumph, "is how every timeout we came to the huddle and we might be down, we might be up, but people were saying, 'We're going to win this game' or 'We're not out of it. Just keep playing.' That's what we did."
The improbable victory left the Clippers (15-5) on such a high that their team charter seemed optional for the flight to Indianapolis on Tuesday. They will start a three-game trip Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse riding a season-high eight-game winning streak, not to mention the good vibes provided by an emotional comeback.
It was the type of effort they could not conjure last month in losses to Sacramento, San Antonio and Chicago, when things went wrong and the Clippers faltered amid the pressure.
"This is better than all of them," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said in comparing the triumph over the Suns to his team's other victories this season, "because this is one we could have lost."
The Clippers needed nearly everything to go right after Morris' shot left them facing a 120-116 deficit with 43 seconds left in overtime. The Suns forced a jump ball that found its way to J.J. Redick underneath the basket. Phoenix point guard Eric Bledsoe tried to block Redick's shot but was called for goaltending with 29 seconds to go.
Phoenix ticked down too many seconds on its ensuing possession, Goran Dragic's jumper missing the rim by such a narrow margin that the referees had to huddle to watch replays to confirm it was a shot-clock violation.
That gave the Clippers the ball with 5.1 seconds left, but the Suns smartly fouled Griffin with 2.6 seconds remaining, foiling the possibility of getting the ball to a wide-open Redick.
Chris Paul then inbounded the ball to Griffin, who took one dribble, stepped back and rose for the 26-footer that eventually settled into the basket after hitting the front of the rim and the backboard.
"After it hit the rim and went up," Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said, "I knew it was going in. I just feel like the basketball gods were on our side there."
Something was certainly working in the Clippers' favor considering the absence of Crawford, who received a technical foul and was ejected early in the fourth quarter after complaining about a non-call on a turnover. The sequence prompted Rivers to bark at the referees and earn his own technical.
"I thought there was a lot of complaining by both head coaches, all the players and that's why I was so surprised by the ejection," Rivers said, "because with all that complaining going on all game, Jamal, probably the most soft-spoken guy of all of them, is the one that gets it.
"But we just found a way to win and to me, it's one of those games where I can't wait to watch the film. I'll be happy and furious at the same time because I know we can play better but the objective is to win games like this."
CLIPPERS VS. INDIANA PACERS
When: 4 p.m. PST.
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 15-5; Pacers 7-14.
Record vs. Pacers (2013-14): 1-1.
Update: The Pacers have been unable to overcome a season-ending injury to Paul George and the departure of Lance Stephenson; a five-game losing streak has left them out of the playoff picture even in the weak Eastern Conference. Former Fairfax High forward Solomon Hill has been one bright spot, starting all 21 games and averaging a career-high 11.2 points — quite a leap from the 1.7 points he averaged last season as a rookie backup.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch