MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Disbelieving eyes followed the arc of the first three-point shot, and as it splashed into the net, they became wider.
By the second consecutive make, jaws began to fall.
By the third, which seemed to float and then fall through in slow motion, there was only silence.
Said Clippers forward Kenyon Martin: “It got quiet.”
By then, with 1 minute 47 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 99-98 win at FedEx Forum on Sunday, many in the sellout crowd of 18,119 could only look around in disbelief, trying to reaffirm with others that what they witnessed was real.
But it was.
Clippers guard Nick Young really did bury three consecutive three-pointers in the span of exactly one minute of game time in the fourth quarter, slicing a 12-point Memphis lead to three.
Each of his shots came in transition off passes from Chris Paul, and Young said, “I felt like I couldn’t miss.”
Like that, a team that had trailed by as many as 27 points had whittled a double-digit deficit to a manageable few.
“A lot of people probably thought they were meaningless shots, but now we’ll say they were huge, huge shots,” Martin said.
Young is known for his smile but in that moment, after the last shot sank and the “growl towels” so many Memphis fans had been waving fell still, that smile was as wide as the muddy river that runs alongside this city.
“This is big,” Young said. “This is why they brought me here.”
The Clippers acquired Young in March, rescuing him, you might say, from a dysfunctional and moribund Washington Wizards squad in a three-team, five-player trade.
The Clippers needed his scoring, but the Los Angeles native, who starred at Reseda Cleveland High and then at USC, was just happy to be coming home. Young called it “a dream come true.”
So was his team-leading 19-point performance off the bench against Memphis, in which he made six of his nine shots.
“That moment, prime time, being a part of the victory — and this is national: Everybody in the world saw it,” he said.
On a team with other playmakers, with All-Stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and three-point shooting specialists such as Randy Foye and Mo Williams, Young isn’t the Clippers player some might have expected to do what he did.
Even Young felt surprised.
“Being on this team, I really haven’t been in that situation down the stretch,” Young said.
When he was Sunday, it all unfolded like a dream, which is the only way Young would have wanted it.