MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Clippers huddled during their fourth-quarter timeout Sunday and exchanged blank stares.
The clock indicated that 8 minutes 54 seconds remained in the game and they trailed the Memphis Grizzlies on the road by 24 points. There wasn’t much to say.
A thick-bearded man who is 6 feet 8 and 245-pounds of muscle and often-crazed determination spoke up.
“C’mon, man, we’re not quitting,” Reggie Evans said.
That message, however foolhardy, seemed to stick.
“That was the attitude we had the rest of the way,” forward Blake Griffin said.
All the way until the Clippers completed a most unlikely comeback to win, 99-98, and take a 1-0 series lead against the Grizzlies in their Western Conference first-round playoff series, which continues Wednesday in Memphis.
But Evans did more than offer rah-rah encouragement to his teammates. He backed up his words too.
In 21 minutes, Evans grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, eight of them in the fourth quarter.
Each time he emerged with one, he was pumping his fists, shouting, excited, as if he was the only one who didn’t know his team was behind.
“I just felt like we had momentum,” Evans said Monday.
“I felt like we were right there, knocking on the door. Because it wasn’t over.”
It sure seemed to be.
“If you’re a fan, if you grow up on basketball, you think about the Reggie Miller-New York game,” he said, referring to the 1995 playoff game when Miller scored eight points in 11 seconds for a come-from-behind win for the Indiana Pacers. “Everybody thought that was over. But what happened?
“You’ve got to understand,” Evans continued, “we’ve got a lot of guys that are new to the whole playoff environment. They’re rookies to this and sometimes you can be a little shell-shocked.”
Evans, 31, has played 10 seasons in the league and Sunday marked his 28th playoff game. Shell-shocked he was not.
“I knew at the end of the day, if we just stay poised, play some defense and get a little attitude,” he said, “we’ll be all right.”
Evans can play defense, and he did when it mattered most.
“Reggie Evans did an outstanding job on Zach Randolph in the fourth quarter,” Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins said after the game. “He was banging him around pretty good.”
Randolph was scoreless in the final quarter, missing three shots and committing a turnover.
Said Randolph of Evans on Monday: “He’s a guy who’s got six fouls and he’s going to use them. ... He’s a good defensive player.”
Evans’ determination to rebound aggressively is an attribute he has in abundance.
“He doesn’t care who’s around, who’s next to him,” Griffin said. “His mindset is, he’s going to get the ball, even if I’m standing there next to him.”
And just as Evans snatches rebounds that are sometimes far beyond his grasp, he and his teammates snatched a win Sunday, one that seemed far beyond their reach.