Game #29
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
February 18, 2012 | 12:30 PM (PST)
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15 30 25 25 8 103
26 17 24 28 5 100
    LOS ANGELES–There are certain games within an NBA schedule that could be akin to going through the motions. Saturday afternoon, however, was far from one of them.

    The Clippers and Spurs, two of the premier teams in the Western Conference, played with the spirit and panache of a game more conducive to basketball in May, not mid-February.

    There were momentum swinging plays, hard fouls, mistakes, and a surplus of clutch shots; none bigger than two 3-pointers by Spurs reserve guard Gary Neal, which propelled San Antonio past the host Clippers, 103-100, in overtime, and extended their winning streak to 10 in a row.

    Despite the loss, All-Star power forward Blake Griffin tallied 22 points and 20 rebounds, his first career 20-20 game, before fouling out with eight seconds left in overtime.

    Click to view photos from the game »
    As the final minutes of regulation played out, the Clippers (19-10) seized control. Chris Paul, who scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, once again took the team on his shoulders. And after two Paul free throws gave L.A. a three-point lead, Randy Foye swiped the ball from Neal and corralled it on the floor as head coach Vinny Del Negro called the team’s final timeout.

    The Clippers advanced the ball and on the ensuing inbounds play, Paul caught a pass from Ryan Gomes near the midcourt line, heading in the direction of the Spurs basket. He hurriedly flipped the ball ahead to Foye, who was positioned near San Antonio’s 3-point line. Neal intercepted the pass and in stride connected on a 3-pointer from straightaway to tie it at 95 with 5.5 seconds to go.

    “I was shocked that I let the ball go,” Paul said. “I would have thrown the ball out of bounds. I think I was just shocked that I was about to go back court.

    “This one stings probably more than any other one.”

    Griffin called the play “weird” and Spurs forward Tim Duncan added, “It was a crazy play. I don’t know what happened there honestly. We have been talking about it since the game ended, what happened and how crazy it was. Sometimes you just get lucky and we got lucky on that one.”

    Paul darted to the other end, weaving in and out of traffic, before firing an errant fadeaway at the buzzer along the right baseline.

    It was a somewhat unfortunate end to a brilliant fourth-quarter battle between Paul and Spurs All-Star Tony Parker, who tallied 30 points and 10 assists. The point guards took turns sinking midrange jumpers, swooping layups, and forcing defenders to put them on the foul line. They combined to shoot 13 free throws in the fourth with Paul going 6-for-6 and Parker making 4-of-7.

    Overtime turned into a veritable slugfest.

    The teams combined for just three field goals in the period, but Neal, again, was opportunistic. After Griffin made the second of two free throws to tie game, Duncan (11 points, 17 rebounds) found Neal open in the opposite corner as the Clippers double-teamed the future Hall of Famer on the left block. Neal knocked down the shot, giving San Antonio a 101-98 lead.

    “That is what [Neal] does, shoot the ball,” Spurs head coach Greg Popovich said. “If he doesn’t shoot he isn’t going to play, I just sit him down.”

    After falling down 65-50, the Clippers put together a 17-0 run in the third quarter to regain the lead. The stretch was sparked by Foye, who knocked down 6 of his 11 shots in the quarter, including three 3-pointers, for 16 points. He finished a season-high 21.

    Second-year point guard Eric Bledsoe entered the game for Paul with 6:51 remaining in the third and pulled down three rebounds and dished two assists, including a between the legs dime to Griffin for a high-flying dunk in transition. The play gave the Clippers their first lead of the second half, 67-65.


    The Clippers opened the game on an 8-0 run and led 26-15 at the end of the first quarter. DeAndre Jordan and Griffin combined for five dunks in the frame… The Clippers lost for the first time in their L.A. Stars ABA throwback uniforms. They are now 2-1 in Hardwood Classic games… San Antonio made 12 of their 28 3-pointers (42.9%), while the Clippers made 8-of-26 (30.8%)… Kenyon Martin closed the game at center, in part, because Del Negro said he liked Martin’s ability to move his feet on the perimeter. Martin had three points, seven rebounds, and two steals, while Jordan had eight points and eight rebounds. After the game Martin talked about losing such a close game: “Every loss hurts, but some are worse than others. This one should hurt, and hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite us down the stretch.”

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