It was the Clippers versus the Dallas Mavericks, so it almost seemed predetermined when the Clippers fell behind by double figures and trailed late in the fourth quarter.
Then something unexpected happened, at least if you used the team's three previous meetings this season as a script. And it wasn't good for the Clippers.
Dallas actually held on this time, emerging with a 113-107 victory Thursday night at Staples Center that bolstered the Mavericks' playoff hopes.
Of course, given the teams involved, there was nothing easy about it.
Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki made a pair of three-pointers as part of a 10-0 run that transformed a tie score into what looked like a mild runaway midway through the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks led by 12 points with less than three minutes to go before the Clippers did their comeback thing, pulling to within 109-107 with 1 minute 26 seconds left on a layup by Darren Collison.
The Clippers got the ball back, but J.J. Redick missed a three-pointer and Collison airballed a three-pointer from the corner. Nowitzki (26 points) and Shawn Marion then each made a pair of free throws to help the Mavericks retain a potential No. 7 seeding in the playoffs.
"We ran out of miracles," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "We had some good shots, though."
Clippers forward Blake Griffin tallied 25 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his first triple-double of the season but left the game with 9.8 seconds left after turning his right ankle and falling to the court. Rivers said the injury did not appear to be serious.
DeAndre Jordan had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Clippers and Redick had 12 points in his return from back and hip injuries that had sidelined him since Feb. 3, but his output represented almost the entirety of his team's bench production. Glen Davis had four points and was the only other Clippers reserve to score.
Rivers said Redick came off the bench for the first time this season because he was going to played limited minutes initially upon his return.
A quick recap of the Clippers' previous rallies — or Mavericks' meltdowns, depending on your affiliation — might make for risky reading for the faint of heart.
The Clippers came back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter in their most recent meeting March 27. They had trailed by seven with four minutes left Jan. 3 before ending the game on a 16-2 run. Then there was the especially epic rally Jan. 15, when the Clippers obliterated a 17-point deficit with about five minutes left.
The Clippers got off to a low-energy start Thursday, not all that surprising considering they were playing for the second time in 24 hours. They continually neglected to box out, giving up easy putbacks and layups in falling behind by 11 points early in the second quarter.
The Clippers couldn't replicate their comeback recipe one more time.
"We just ran out of time tonight," said Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who had 17 points and nine assists in 39 minutes. "We waited too long."
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