Reporting from Philadelphia — When it was over, Chris Paul and Kenyon Martin slapped hands, the same hand Paul had used to hit the game-winning shot, the same hand Martin had used on defense in the final seconds to secure the Clippers' victory Friday night.
The Clippers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers, 78-77, because so many of their hands were involved in the process, not just Paul making a 16-foot jumper with 3.2 seconds left for the final score.
It was Martin helping Paul double-team Lou Williams on his final missed shot.
It was Paul scoring 24 points on 10-for-20 shooting on a night when the Clippers shot 38.8% from the field, and 10.5% (two for 19) from three-point range.
It was Mo Williams scoring 14 points despite being weak from food poisoning.
It was Reggie Evans getting 10 rebounds, five offensive. It was Martin getting seven rebounds and a blocked shot and Blake Griffin getting 16 points and 11 rebounds.
"It wasn't pretty tonight," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "But we battled. The outcome is the outcome.
"But if you don't compete, you're not giving yourself an opportunity. We competed tonight."
The Clippers and 76ers went back and forth in the fourth quarter, playing through seven lead changes and three ties.
Just when it looked as if the Clippers had control of the game, holding a one-point lead with 20.7 seconds left and the ball, they ran into trouble.
Ryan Gomes tried to inbound the ball to Caron Butler, but his poor pass got away. Butler tried to get the ball, but he was called for a foul on Williams, who made both free throws for a 77-76 lead with 18 seconds left.
Del Negro called a timeout and knew exactly who would take the last shot.
"We wanted to be in attack mode and Chris made the right play." Del Negro said. "That's what great players do."
But even that didn't go smoothly.
Paul penetrated and threw a pass to Griffin that went between the forward's legs.
Griffin scrambled to the floor to get the ball and keep it from being a turnover. He just threw the ball up over his head, the ball somehow still finding Paul near the free-throw line.
Then the six-foot Paul went back to work on 6-6 Andre Iguodala, talking his time, dribbling, getting just enough space to make the game-winning jumper.
"I looked up at the clock and saw that I had a second chance at life," Paul, with ice bags on both knees, said, smiling. "I had missed like two or three of those in the fourth quarter with the shot clock running that hit the back of the rim. Got to keep shooting. Luckily it finally went in."
The Clippers stayed in the game because Del Negro tried a lineup in the fourth quarter with Griffin at power forward, Martin at small forward and Evans at center.
And it worked for the most part, especially with Martin on the court in the final seconds.
After Paul made his shot, he and Martin smothered Williams near the sideline in front of the Clippers' bench.
Williams shot, but it wasn't close.
"I just stood there," said Martin, who used his 6-9 frame to tower over the 6-1 Williams. "I just got big. He couldn't see the rim."