Call it the Mother’s Day Miracle or call it whatever you want but the Clippers came back from the edge of desperation and a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the Western Conference semifinal with a 101-99 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder this afternoon at Staples Center.
The Clippers seemed all but dead after shooting only 25% in the first quarter but slowly crawled back into the game, taking their first lead with 58 seconds to play.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. It’s now a best of three with OKC having the homecourt advantage.
"This is one of the best ones yet," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said of the comeback victory. "We got off to a very slow start. Even there in the fourth quarter, we could have relaxed, you know, gave in at any point. I think we just willed this one. It's a really good team. We found a way.
The star was the unlikely Darren Collison, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin, playing with five fouls, and Paul each had 10 in the quarter.
"Darren Collison was amazing today," Paul said. "If you see us during the game, probably saw me going nuts on him a couple times there at the end."
The Clippers took their first lead with 58 seconds to play on a basket by Collison. The lead increased to four with 32.8 seconds left on another Collison bucket. Russell Westbrook sailed easily for a layup to make it a two-point game with 28 seconds to play.
The Clippers then worked the clock to 7 seconds, when Griffin missed a shot. Westbrook then pulled up for a three-pointer with 2 seconds to play for the win but missed and Serge Ibaka then missed a put-back at the buzzer that would have sent the game to overtime.
It was clearly a game to remember.
"We've had wins like this throughout the season," Collison said. "We've been here before. [Coach] Doc [Rivers] has been telling us all series long, it's a long game. We stuck with it. The good thing about it is that even though we didn't play well throughout the game, we was able to get a win. That feels more impressive than anything we did."
Now, the Clippers still haven’t figured out stop Kevin Durant who scored 40 points on 12 of 24 shooting. He made 15 of his 18 foul shots. And Westbrook had 27 points.
Griffin was the leading scorer for the Clippers with 25 points. Paul finished with 23 while Collison and Jamal Crawford each had 18 points coming off the bench.
The large numbers for Collison and Crawford shows the Clippers still have trouble with a couple of starters. Matt Barnes missed all six of his shots and had no points in more than 21 minutes of play. J.J. Redick had only six points and missed six of his eight shots while playing 17:59.
So now its on to Oklahoma City for the game that is more a must win for the Thunder than the Clippers. But at this point of the playoffs, every game is a must win.
Thunder 75, Clippers 63 (third quarter)
Is there a Mother’s Day miracle in the Clippers? Probably not. But stranger things can happen in the NBA.
Things are pretty dire for the Clippers as a loss today in Game 4 would put them down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series heading to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Tuesday. To avoid that, the Clippers will have to dig themselves out of a 12-point hole.
As usual, Kevin Durant was dominating with 30 points, 13 of those coming from the foul line, where he was 13 of 15. Russell Westbrook has 17 points.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both have 15 points for the Clippers.
The Clippers closed the deficit to eight points early in the quarter courtesy of a free throw by Paul after Westbrook was assessed a technical while leaving the court at the end of the first half. And then J.J. Redick made his first basket of the game and only his second in nine quarters.
But then the Thunder went on a 9-2 run that put the Clippers down by 15 points, forcing Clippers Coach Doc Rivers to call a timeout to try to settle his quickly sinking team.
It helped as the Clippers went on a 7-0 run on a three-pointer by Redick, a slam by DeAndre Jordan and two free throws by Griffin.
The Clippers had put together a good run but with 3:40 to play Griffin picked up his fifth foul, sending him to the bench for some major minutes.
The Thunder closed the quarter with a 5-2 run.
Thunder 57, Clippers 46 (halftime)
All things considered the Clippers are lucky to be down by only 11 points at the half.
Having dug themselves a 17-point hole after the first quarter, the Clippers started to creep back into the game, even closing the margin to four points on two occasions.
Sunday’s Game 3 is a must win for the Clippers, who do not want to go back to Oklahoma City down, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series.
The Clippers got the margin to less than 10 points with 7:12 left in the quarter and then continued on a 9-0 run that closed the score to four, 39-35. The run was started by Chris Paul basket, followed by Jamal Crawford score, a three-point play by Blake Griffin and then two free throws by Crawford. It certainly brought the Staples Center crowd back in to the game.
It wasn’t long though before the Thunder had the lead back up to 11 points as Russell Westbrook continued to control the tempo of the game. Kevin Durant was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points and Westbrook had 15. The Thunder made 19 of 37 shots (51%).
The Clippers, after shooting 25% in the first quarter, were up to 40% by the half, making 19 of 48 shots. Paul led the Clippers with 13 points while Griffin and Crawford had 11.
A low point for the Clippers came with about four minutes to play and down by nine when DeAndre Jordan missed two free throws, the second an airball.
Thunder 32, Clippers 15 (end of first quarter)
Rarely will you see such a disastrous display of shooting as the Clippers put on in the first quarter of Game 3 against the Oklahoma City Thunder this afternoon.
With 3 1/2 minutes to play in the first quarter, the Clippers had made only two of 15 shots from the field and found themselves trailing by 22 points. Now they did rally to close it to only a 17-point deficit by the end of the quarter, 32-15.
The shooting stats: Blake Griffin 0 for 5, J.J. Redick 0 for 4, Jamal Crawford 0 for 3, Matt Barnes 0 for 2. Total for the team: 6 for 24 (25%).
Chris Paul was the only Clipper to even know where the basket was, making three of six shots.
Meanwhile, the Thunder was on fire, making 11 of 17. Russell Westbrook had 11 points and Kevin Durant 10.
It certainly wasn’t what the Clippers needed in a must-win game. A loss on Sunday would put the Clippers down 3-1 and headed back to Oklahoma City for a Game 5 on Tuesday.
With just over seven minutes to play the Clippers found themselves down by 12 points, 15-3. At that point they were one for eight, including J.J. Redick missing all four of his shots. He was pretty miserable on Friday night when he scored only one basket.
The Thunder, at that point, were six for six.
Things didn’t immediately improve as Westbrook drove for a basket to complete a 13-0 run.
Another lowlight for the Clippers came a couple minutes into the game when Griffin took a right cross to the groin from Serge Ibaka when Griffin was going up for a shot. No foul was called but Griffin was hurt and the Clippers had to use a timeout to get him some recovery time.
You hate to say this afternoon’s game is a must win for the Clippers, but, well, it is.
Losing Friday night to the Oklahoma City Thunder put the Clippers in a 2-1 hole in this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
So far in this series the Clippers have not figured out a way to stop Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant is averaging 31 points a game in the series while shooting 51%. Westbrook is averaging 27.7 points a game on 58% shooting.
Clearly for the Clippers to win they need to get Blake Griffin into the offense. And you can always count on Chris Paul. But Friday, the Clippers got a miserable performance out of J.J. Redick, who made only one shot at the end of the game.
Jamal Crawford usually can pick up some of the slack if one of the starters struggles but he has been inconsistent with his shots in the playoffs.
If the Clippers are hoping to get any energy from the crowd they might be out of luck. It may be the weather or more likely Mother’s Day but Staples Center was mostly empty some 25 minutes before tipoff when the Clippers came out for warmups.
In about three hours we’ll know if the Clippers have made this a three-game series or if they’ve dug a hole from which they're unlikely to emerge.