Concluding our series of off-season themed posts, today across SB Nation is Comeback Day. All of the NBA blogs will be talking about a memorable comeback associated with their franchise, whether a game or a season or a player or whatever.
Here at Clips Nation, the subject of comebacks can really only lead to one place and time -- Memphis, Tennessee, April 29 2012. Obviously Game 1 of last season's first round playoff series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies is fresh in the collective consciousness of Clippers fans, but it's not just the temporal proximity of the event that makes it the subject of this post. The simple fact is, that game is indisputably the greatest comeback in Clippers' history, and arguably the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history.
The Clippers have certainly had impressive comeback wins before. A game in April 2006 when they trailed Denver by 20 points at halftime but came back to win by 2 certainly comes to mind, partly because it helped to establish their dominance against the Nuggets, their first round playoff victim that year. But as great as that Denver comeback was, the Clippers trailed by a greater margin (as much as 27), much later in the game (down 24 with 8 minutes remaining) and the stage was bigger -- an actual road playoff game as opposed to an eventual playoff opponent.
Over a seven minute period in the fourth quarter, the Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 26 to 1 to take their first lead with less than a minute remaining in the game. The Grizzlies actually regained the lead with their first basket after 12 straight misses, but Chris Paul hit two free throws with 23.7 seconds left to put L.A. back on top, after which the Clippers got the defensive stop they needed to complete the miracle comeback.
In case you've forgotten how great it was, here's a video of every Clipper score during the comeback.
How unlikely was this win? Well, think about this. The Clippers closed the came on a 28-3 run over the final eight minutes. It's unusual to score 28 points in eight minutes, a rate that equates to 42 points in a quarter, 168 in a game. It's even more unusual to hold your opponent to just three points in nine minutes. And while it is true that good offense can feed on good defense and vice versa, the probability that a team could have such a stellar offensive showing coupled with such a stellar defensive showing precisely at the moment that they need both... well it borders on the impossible.
More important than the memory of that comeback is what it means for the Clippers as they move into the upcoming season. Chris Paul was on the bench to begin the fourth quarter as the team fell behind by 24. After suffering a groin injury late in the season, it would have been easy, and perhaps even prudent, for Paul to sit the rest of the game in order to rest up for Game 2. That's exactly what Coach Vinny Del Negro wanted him to do, but Paul insisted on returning, believing (we all thought foolishly at the time) that the Clippers could still win the game.
That's the kind of competitor Paul is. The kind of guy who can look at a 24 point fourth quarter deficit and think to himself "We've got this" -- and actually believe it -- AND THEN GO OUT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.
And that's a big reason why the Clippers should be very excited about the coming season, a season that could very well see many more comebacks.