The Clippers have never made it to the Western Conference finals in 45 years of a mostly despondent existence, but the equivalent of an NBA miracle might happen this week.
The odds were ever in their favor after they shrugged off the Houston Rockets and the numbingly boring strategy of fouling DeAndre Jordan seemingly as often as he drew a breath.
It took forever to get to the second half but the Clippers owned it once they got there, running away with a 128-95 victory Sunday and dominating the Rockets in everything from A to Zzzzzz at Staples Center.
Of great interest, the Clippers had never held a 3-1 lead this far into the playoffs. Gulp. Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals is Tuesday at Houston.
"It's about us, not about the Clippers' franchise [history] and all that," guard Chris Paul said, trying to create some distance from the past.
Only eight teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win an NBA playoff series, most recently the Phoenix Suns in 2006.
These Clippers don't seem like the fun-but-ultimately-futile bunch that lost to Phoenix in Game 7 of the West semifinals by 20 points. If Ron Harper played on this team, he wouldn't compare the franchise's doom and gloom in the 1990s to logging time in jail.
These are the new Clippers, pulling off their second-largest margin of victory in a playoff game. T-shirts handed out to their fans claimed "We Are Relentless," and the home team certainly proved it in the third quarter, scoring 43 points and taking a 103-79 lead.
There were more "Aus-tin Riv-ers" chants, plenty of boos for Dwight Howard and a steady 15-point, 12-assist game from Paul despite a hamstring injury still forcing him to stiffly get in and out of his seat on the bench.
Throw in 21 points from Blake Griffin and, indeed, 26 from Jordan and this is the quote you get from Houston Coach Kevin McHale:
"They beat the hell out of us. I really don't know what to tell you."
There were plenty of questions for McHale, actually, first and foremost his decision to continually have the Rockets foul Jordan on purpose.
Jordan had 28 free-throw attempts before halftime, an NBA playoff record for a half. He made only 10 of them for unsightly 35.7% accuracy, but the Clippers led at halftime, 60-54, thanks to Houston's inability to make its own free throws (three for 13) and a virtual no-show by Howard.
"We were just trying to see if we could muck up the game a little bit," said McHale, whose team is now the one in a big mess.
Howard had four points in only seven first-half minutes, watching a lot of basketball from the bench after committing three fouls.
Somehow, his second half was worse. He finished with seven points and six rebounds before fouling out. After that sixth foul, he was ejected for arguing the call and picking up his second technical foul. There was 9:52 to play.
"I get emotional when I'm playing in the playoffs and I want to win so bad. . . . I just have to try my best to keep my cool," Howard said.
Jordan got his revenge, by the way, for any early embarrassment he felt, completing dunks on three consecutive possessions for an 81-58 Clippers lead midway through the third quarter.
He also made four of six free-throw attempts in the second half, finishing 14 for 34.
All the intentional fouling was for naught.
"I just kept telling him, 'Embrace it,'" Paul said.
Houston guard James Harden had a too-quiet 21 points and seemed to think he deserved more than 10 free throws, mentioning he acquired "a couple scratches on my arms" after he was asked about the Clippers' seemingly stellar defense.
McHale was critical of the referees, saying they missed some foul calls on Howard and singling out Clippers forward Matt Barnes on one particular play.
The final word belonged to Jordan, whose 17 rebounds and six-for-seven field-goal accuracy also deserved to be mentioned.
The Clippers might finally get to the conference finals? Big deal.
"That's not what our ultimate goal is," Jordan said. "We want to be able to win nine more games."