PATTEN PENDING: BREAKDOWN OF A COMEBACK
The Clippers put away Sunday night’s improbable comeback win over the Timberwolves in overtime, thanks to Jared Dudley’s clutch 3-pointer and free throws from Chris Paul.
But how they got to the extra period was what was both astonishing and, according to Doc Rivers, a “great lesson” in stick-to-it-iveness.
“I think the biggest thing that we‘ve learned as a team from Doc,” Paul said. “And it‘s great that it came to fruition tonight, is even in practice, he always talks about the game not being over. When we got down by three or four, with seconds left, we could‘ve just said, ‘We lost this one, we fought hard’
“It‘s crazy because he says that all the time— the game is not over. Extend the game. We found a way.”
Here is a look at how they extended the game, and left nearly every person, from fan to reporter to player, on their feet for nearly all of the final 26 seconds of the wild fourth quarter:
With 2:17 left, Paul made two free throws to pull the Clippers within a point of Minnesota, but Kevin Love answered with basically the same turnaround jump hook that he flipped in with his right hand on back-to-back possessions. The Clippers went two possessions in a row without scoring and called timeout with 29.4 seconds left down 105-100.
That’s when madness ensued.
Step 1: The Clippers called a 20-second timeout with 29.4 seconds left after Love missed a turnaround jumper from 10 feet that was nearly identical to the previous two makes. The Clippers had to score quickly. It didn’t matter if it was a two or a three. Paul and Blake Griffin ran pick and roll at the top of the 3-point line. Griffin rolled hard as Luc Mbah a Moute and Love stayed with Paul, protecting against a shot from beyond the arc.
Paul threw a bounce pass between the defenders and Griffin caught it and immediately rose for the dunk. Corey Brewer conceded it and the Clippers were down 105-102 with 26.0 seconds still remaining.
Step 2: Minnesota called timeout to advance the ball after Griffin’s basket. The Clippers had determined in the huddle that they were not going to foul until there were 6-12 seconds remaining in the game, which meant there were going to be 12-18 seconds of potential misery for whomever received the inbounds pass for the Wolves. After the Clippers used a foul to give without exhausting any time, Love threw the ball in to Ricky Rubio, who quickly got the ball to Kevin Martin, a 93.2 percent foul shooter. Martin was about to get trapped by Paul and Crawford in the backcourt so he gave it up Rubio, who quickly shuttled it ahead Love.
Griffin and DeAndre Jordan surrounded Love near the sideline and although they weren’t attempting to foul him, the whistle blew at the 18.0 second mark for a foul on Griffin, his fourth of the game.
“I thought Love was about to travel because they assume you‘re going to foul,” Rivers said. “I told our guys that we‘re not going to foul until like six seconds, because the longer the clock goes and the more they‘re thinking.”
Step 3: Despite the foul call, the Clippers caught a break when Love missed the first of two free throws. Still, they needed to score on two possessions and had to do it in 18 seconds. They used their final timeout after Love’s second free throw was true. Paul inbounded the ball to Crawford, who drove to his right around a Jordan screen on Brewer. Nikola Pekovic switched on the play and Crawford continued all the way to the rim for a layup around the Wolves’ big man, pulling the score to 106-104 with 13.2 seconds to go.
Step 4: The Wolves had to do basically three things in the next 13.2 seconds to ensure a victory. First, they had to get the ball in bounds. Second, they had to secure the ball in the front court. And third, they had to make their free throws. They never got a chance at number three.
Rubio threw the ball into the backcourt to Martin from the sideline out of bounds play. Paul and Crawford retreated to trap him and presumably commit a foul. But Martin tried to create space and Paul backed off just enough to throw Martin off balance and knock the ball away as Martin attempted to dribble with his weak hand. Crawford scooped it up and finished with a two-handed dunk to tie the game with 7.7 seconds to go.
“Chris played great defense,” Crawford said. “It was more of his play than mine. Obviously, centering Kevin Martin to his left made it difficult. Chris is one of the best defenders out there. I just figured that he lost the ball in close proximity and I was able to get it. I wanted to dunk and made sure it went in.”
Step 5: The Wolves had no timeouts but almost eight seconds to work with to push the ball ahead and still win the game. Rubio raced up the left side of the floor and found Pekovic in good post position against Jordan. Pekovic missed short and both teams scrambled for the rebound. He still managed to get off a second from 20 feet as the buzzer sounded. But that shot caromed off the rim short as well. Overtime was imminent.
After the game, Love and Willie Green had statements that summed up the feeling in both locker rooms.
Love: “We just blew it, blew the game. I don‘t know how else to say it – we blew the game.”
Green: “It‘s a big time character win. That is exactly what it is. It‘s gutsy. Minnesota did everything to win the game but we just kept fighting down the stretch and got a steal at the end. It was just big time on our guys, everybody just came in and fought and that‘s what‘s going to take.”