Baron Davis was driving hard, pushing forward aggressively almost all night against the Boston Celtics, so why not do the same, verbally, in the Clippers’ final timeout?
So he spelled it out in clear, precise terms.
“Coach, run this play for me. I’m gonna shoot and we’re gonna win,” Davis said he told Coach Mike Dunleavy.
And what a wildly improbable story and finish.
The Clippers scored five points in the final 8.5 seconds to defeat the Celtics, 92-90, the winning shot being a fadeaway jumper by Davis at the buzzer.
It stopped Boston’s nine-game road winning streak, marking only the second Celtics loss on the road this season. This had echoes of the Clippers’ upset of the Celtics last season at Staples Center, a two-point victory in February.
“You’ve got to prepare your mind for it when you’re getting ready to take a shot,” Davis said. “I didn’t know what Coach was gonna draw. I made it known that I wanted to get the ball and if I got it with a second left, if I can get to my fadeway over [Rajon] Rondo, at least we’d be able to get a good look.”
Dunleavy confirmed the conversation.
The struggling Davis of last season wouldn’t have held back either. But this request came with a certain measure of conviction, backed by a solid base of hard work and careful mentoring from assistant coach John Lucas this season.
“I think he might have asked for that shot at any time,” Dunleavy said. “But it was a much more confident deal and we felt pretty good about it too. I thought obviously we had the court spread pretty good.”
What led to the utterly unpredictable ending for the Clippers (13-17) was equally stunning from a Celtics perspective.
Davis played a role in the score-tying three-point basket, setting up Rasual Butler, who made a 23-foot shot from the right corner with 8.5 seconds remaining.
Then Davis landed in the midst of more drama, fouling Rondo with 1.5 seconds left with the score tied, 90-90. With the game in his hands, Rondo, who is shooting 54% from the free-throw line, missed both attempts.
That set the stage for Davis’ winning shot.
All the drama came without the inside presence and veteran leadership of Marcus Camby, who is out because of a hyperextended left knee. Second-year man DeAndre Jordan started in place of Camby, and Chris Kaman shouldered the burden inside, and finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Davis had 24 points and 13 assists, and arguably the most important shot of his Clippers career.
“It felt great,” he said. “I’m used to taking them, making them and missing. I just love being in that situation where the game is on the line and the ball is in my hands. . . . That’s something we do when we are kids and imagine it.”
Games like Sunday night are what the Clippers had been expecting from Davis last season. He had made a nearly identical buzzer-beater against the Celtics in the 2007-08 season when he was with the Golden State Warriors, on Feb. 20.
“This is one of the first I’ve made here for this organization and I hope to make many more,” he said.
The Clippers, who had lost three straight games, required a mental boost after a blowout loss at Phoenix on Christmas Day.
“We needed it,” Davis said. “We definitely needed the victory. We didn’t need to go into overtime with a former champion. It was a great game. I thought we played with a lot of heart, passion and energy and I’m just proud of the fact we were able to stay close and give ourselves a chance to win at the end. . . . Tonight it all came together.”
The loss to the Suns wasn’t the only one sticking with the Clippers.
“Pretty much the game we are trying to erase is the New York game,” Dunleavy said. “We had a lead that we gave up. Somewhere along the way you’ve got to get one against a team you’re probably not supposed to get against.
“This was probably one of them.”