There were fewer than 24 hours before the Clippers were to tipoff round two of the playoffs in the Alamo City and the gray clouds outside the team hotel were probably symbolic of the way the series is supposed to unfold in the eyes of the basketball universe.
The top-seeded Spurs are expected to rain 3-pointers on the allegedly hapless Clipper defense as if all from their gritty series against the Memphis Grizzlies is forgotten.
A morning sports program pondered whether or not the Clippers could win one game - not one in San Antonio, but one in the entire series. Three panelists thought no. The Spurs are too experienced and playing too well. They have won 14 games in a row, including a sweep of the Utah Jazz in which they owned a playoff-best +16 scoring differential.
Of course, the fourth panelist disagreed. He was laughed at. Funny how the Clippers ousted the Grizzlies two days ago playing the brand of so-called "playoff" basketball most said they couldn't. They held Memphis to a franchise low 32% shooting and 72 points, yet according to pundits, the Grizzlies just missed shots.
In seven games, as well as the weeks leading up to the playoffs, the Clippers formed an identity. No longer were they merely Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They were Randy Foye or DeAndre Jordan; Mo Williams or Reggie Evans. They were journeyman Bobby Simmons contributing nine points and solid defense against Rudy Gay in a playoff game with veteran leader Caron Butler sidelined. They were Butler triumphantly returning a game later from a broken left hand, cementing the legend of "Tuff Juice." They were Kenyon Martin's scowls and toughness. They were Chauncey Billups' leadership from the sideline. They were Eric Bledsoe's athleticism, so fast he could seemingly fly off the tracks at any moment. They were Nick Young's unwavering confidence and Ryan Gomes' professionalism. They were Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie's friendship, exemplifying what Griffin said was the "most connected and fun team" he's ever been around.
They were the team that no one believed they could be.
The indomitable moment of that first series may have been Paul's final plea with head coach Vinny Del Negro in the second half of Game 1. "End of the third quarter coach took me out and I went nuts," he said, hoarse from just completing the greatest fourth quarter comeback in postseason history. "I said, Coach, give us a chance! Give us a chance!"
Once again, nobody's giving the Clippers a chance, but Chris Paul makes a pretty convincing argument. Just ask his coach.
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