The Clippers won? The Clippers won! It was a shake-your-head-in-amazement kind of night, the Clippers overcoming a five-point, fourth-quarter deficit and the bizarre ejection of super sub and super nice guy Jamal Crawford to beat the Phoenix Suns, 121-120, in overtime Monday night at Staples Center on Blake Griffin’s insane bouncing three-pointer at the buzzer. Here are five takeaways from a game that may already be airing on ESPN Classic:
1. Griffin is ready for his closeup … from every angle. The star forward who didn’t need to prove anything to anyone did it anyway, throwing down a one-handed dunk in the third quarter that had Julius Erving clapping from his courtside seat, scoring 10 fourth-quarter points to keep the Clippers close when it looked like they were going to fold and connecting on the ridiculous step-back 26-footer that gave them the victory in the final second of overtime. “After it hit the rim and went up,” DeAndre Jordan said, “I knew it was going in. I just feel like the basketball gods were on our side there.”
2. Referee Mark Lindsay did what? Apparently Lindsay had never heard of Crawford or the Clippers shooting guard’s spotless reputation in his 15 NBA seasons. If Lindsay had, he never would have quickly ejected Crawford immediately after one expletive following Crawford’s turnover and foul on Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe early in the fourth quarter. The call led to a subsequent technical foul on Clippers Coach Doc Rivers for arguing about the ejection, sparking a Suns rally that gave them a five-point lead before the Clippers forced overtime. Crawford did not speak with reporters afterward and Lindsay declined to comment.
3. In all honesty, the Clippers probably should have lost. There was the Crawford ejection (however unwarranted), Matt Barnes taking a shot (and having it blocked) late in the fourth quarter even though Griffin was nearly unstoppable and the Clippers leaving Markieff Morris wide open from the corner for a three-pointer that put the Suns up by four points in the final minute of overtime. And, yeah, there was some luck involved in what some might consider a miracle finish for the Clippers. “It’s really special,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “I was telling D.J. [DeAndre Jordan], I’ve hit a few [buzzer-beaters], but I told him that I don’t think that I’ve been as excited as when [Griffin] made this one tonight. I think it was because of the dynamics of the game and how our team is just always talking about fighting through it.”
4. The Pacific Division is no joke. The Clippers have won eight consecutive games … and still trail Golden State by three games. But it’s not just a top-heavy division; Phoenix is two games over .500 despite falling to 0-2 against the Clippers and even Sacramento is no longer a desired opponent. Every team not named the Lakers appears to be on the rise. “We are a 12-10 team but it doesn’t feel like we are 12-10,” Morris said. “We compete with all of the best teams in the league, anybody they put in front of us. We always fight to the finish no matter who it is.”
5. Eric Bledsoe could be remembered as the one who got away. Rivers said before the game that both teams got what they wanted out of the summer 2013 trade that brought Bledsoe to the Suns in exchange for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, but Dudley has already moved on and Redick got off to a slow start this season for the Clippers before heating up over his last four games. Bledsoe collected a triple-double against the Clippers and blocked Paul’s driving layup at the end of regulation, possibly triggering more second-guessing on message boards that have roasted Rivers over letting such a dynamic talent leave Los Angeles.