Clippers erase 24-point deficit, beat 76ers with another rally worth shouting about

Reggie Jackson (1) celebrates with teammate Amir Coffey (7) after the Clippers rallied to beat the 76ers.
Reggie Jackson (1), who had 19 points, celebrates with teammate Amir Coffey after the Clippers stormed back to defeat the 76ers 102-101 on Friday night in Philadelphia.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

After he had sprinted the length of the Wells Fargo Center court in Friday night’s final seconds, shadowing Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey until his go-ahead shot misfired, Reggie Jackson never stopped moving.

The Clippers guard slapped hands with Terance Mann at midcourt. He puffed out the Clippers nameplate on his jersey’s front toward a section of cheering fans. Before he began a postgame interview on television, he sprinted 10 feet to the scorer’s table to dap Nicolas Batum, then ran back into the spotlight, and after he had finished putting words to a 24-point comeback, and a 102-101 victory, he squeezed through a thicket of arms from fans asking for a picture, his goggles, his headband, as he passed through on his way to a tunnel.

If they had been listening, they could have heard Jackson even after he’d passed out of their sight. Entering the locker room, he yelled what has become this team’s mantra amid an unpredictable month of comebacks.


“Yeah! Keep fighting!” Jackson bellowed. “Keep f— fighting!”

One of the NBA’s most mercurial teams had struck again, their brand of boom-or-bust basketball delivering another unpredictable performance and another stunning comeback at less than full strength. Three weeks after opening 2022 with a 13-point rally in the final six minutes to beat Brooklyn, and 10 days after a 25-point, second-half comeback against Denver, the Clippers produced their best first quarter of the month, then their worst second quarter, then a remarkable second half.

Ivica Zubac and the Clippers fell short in trying to stop center Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. Next is a meeting with 76ers star center Joel Embiid.

Jan. 20, 2022

It is only the sixth time a team has won two games in a season after trailing by at least 24 points.

“Just keep scrapping, like this team has done all year,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s our motto.”

Like their point guard’s weaving postgame path, the Clippers never stopped coming, outscoring Philadelphia 58-33 in the final 19 minutes, with Jackson scoring 19 points, the 6-foot-8 Batum’s dogged defense disrupting the rhythm and opportunities for 7-foot Joel Embiid and Amir Coffey making an eight-foot shot for a three-point lead with 39 seconds left.

The Clippers never trailed again, even though they cracked the door open for Philadelphia when Marcus Morris Sr., who had made two key three-pointers in the final six minutes, missed two free throws with 9.4 seconds left and the Clippers clinging to a one-point lead.

“This season it’s a lot of ups and downs, guys going in and out of protocols, injuries, it’s a lot to juggle,” Coffey said. “But this is a really tight-knit group. We stick together, we keep playing up 24, down 24. We just play till that buzzer goes off. We didn’t even know we were down 24 today, we’re just keeping our head down.”


The 76ers’ collapse was followed by boos and afterward coach Doc Rivers, whose end of his tenure with the Clippers in 2020 was marked by losses after holding double-digit leads, bristled when asked what part of the loss he attributed to coaching.

Two nights after Denver center Nikola Jokic closed out the Clippers with a dominant 49-point display, Embiid scored 40, including 11 in the fourth.

“There are certain guys in the league I’m not going to lie you don’t stop, you try to slow up,” Jackson said. “And we did our best job of slowing him up and he had 40, but more so [we] slowed up the guys around him.”

In the first half’s final 15:11, the Clippers were outscored 43-16, with five turnovers plus a shot-clock violation accelerating the loss of their early 14-point lead, a familiar script being followed for a team whose scoring droughts often hinge on turnovers, Lue said before tipoff.

But the Clippers (23-24) committed only two after halftime, and limited Philadelphia’s second-chance opportunities from 11 points before halftime to two after. Jackson did not know the Clippers were down by 24, saying he isn’t “wired” to let a deficit affect him. A small lineup scored 10 points in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 14, and from there the chase was on.

76ers center Joel Embiid goes up for a shot over Clippers forward Nicolas Batum.
At right, 76ers center Joel Embiid, who had 40 points and 13 rebounds, goes up for a shot over Clippers forward Nicolas Batum on Friday night.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

It helped that they had fresh legs. The team’s medical and training staff persuaded Lue to cancel a shootaround Friday morning in the arena because of their late-afternoon arrival from Denver the previous afternoon and the time change that came with it. They held a walkthrough in their hotel ballroom instead.

Playing in his home city, and only two nights after the death of a close friend he memorialized on social media, Morris made a three-pointer to forge a tie with 1:50 to play, and then Ivica Zubac found revenge, sprinting past Embiid after a stop to score a go-ahead layup.

The Clippers are without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and both Batum and Morris weren’t guaranteed to play, with Batum exiting the league’s health and safety protocols after one game because it stemmed from an inconclusive test result, Lue said. But what they have in droves, Coffey said, is trust in the work they put in and in Lue’s adjust-on-the-fly schemes.

“They believe in me a little bit,” Lue said. “A lot of bit maybe. I have earned their trust. When you try different things, do different things, they understand it’s for the best of the team and it is not for me or anybody else. I just want to win the game for that night.”

The Clippers kept on the move after it was over, boarding a late-night train for New York. Amid this month, who knows what kind of game will await them there next.