The Los Angeles Clippers have not been a very good team through most of their existence. In fact, they've been a very bad team more often than not. And perhaps for that reason, they don't seem to have a great history of comeback wins. After all, it's usually the good/great teams and the good/great players who launch big comebacks. In fact, I can think of many more times where the opponent staged a big comeback against the Clippers than when L.A. was the come-from-behind victor.
Without digging through databases, I can think of several great comebacks off the top of my head. If you can think of others, let me know and let's get them on the list.
There are at least a couple of comebacks worth mentioning as well. The ones on this list tend to fall into one of two categories -- the big deficit comeback, and the improbable finish comeback. I suppose you could have a game that has both, if you've got Tracey McGrady.
Let's start with Wednesday's Dallas game as the baseline of the discussion. The Clippers trailed by 17 with less than five minutes remaining in the game. They also trailed by nine under two minutes left. Among the more remarkable aspects of this particular comeback is that the Clippers actually had a terrible sequence that lasted more than a minute in the final three minutes of the game. Think about it -- you've dug a big hole, you've got basically no margin for error, then you go and make several errors over a significant portion of the few precious minutes you have left. Between the three minute mark and the two minute mark, the Clippers gave an open jumper to Monta Ellis, Darren Collison dribbled the ball out of bounds, and the Clippers missed two shots. They were fortunate to get the offensive rebound on the second miss or it would have been three empty trips when they pretty much couldn't afford empty trips.
Making up for those empty trips were some very, very full trips. The Clippers final ten possessions of the game yielded 23 points as follows: 2, 4, 6, 0, 0, 3, 2, 3, 2, 1. When the team got ten points on two trips (aided by a technical foul and a flagrant foul) it completely changed the complexion of the game. Consider that the Dallas lead went from 15 to 7 in less than a minute and LA didn't even get a stop! That just doesn't happen.
Clippers close on 28-3 in final 7:54 to win by one.
The bottom line is that the Memphis comeback is bigger because of the pressure of the situation. If both of these are regular season home games, Dallas is the better comeback.
I'll always remember this comeback fondly because that Elton Brand/Sam Cassell team seemed to be learning how to win, and because the Nuggets were pretty hateable at the time. The game was remarkable primarily for the way it changed abruptly at the start of the second half.
The Nuggets had a 22 point lead, 77-55, in the final minute of the first half. That's 77 first half points, as Denver was able to do anything and everything they wanted to the Clippers. Including a basket at the end of the first half, the Clippers would go on a 22-5 run over the course of 6:35 to cut the lead to five points. The game then settled into a close affair the rest of the way, with Carmelo Anthony picking up a technical foul and an ejection with 70 seconds left to help seal it for the Clippers. Carmelo's technical was among the dumber plays you'll ever see. The refs had actually given him the call, calling a foul against Quinton Ross who had been badgering him the entire second half. Carmelo punched the ball into the crowd, got his second T, and was ejected. At the time the Clippers were up two, and Carmelo, an 80 percent foul shooter, should have been going to the line. After the ejection, the Clippers picked Reggie Evans, a 50 percent foul shooter, to take the shots, and he missed both.
This was a great comeback win, and remarkable in the way the game changed. But it doesn't really compare to the others on the matter of time urgency, where the clock was running out when the team finally regained the lead.
This game from less than a month ago falls into the improbable finish category. The contest was fairly close throughout and the Clippers largest deficit of seven came with about six minutes left; not exactly an insurmountable obstacle in that timeframe.
But when Kevin Love went to the foul line with Minnesota holding a three point lead and only 18 seconds left, things looked bad. The Clippers got a quick layup, a steal and another layup -- exactly what you always tell yourself you want, but never seem to get -- to force overtime and then went on to win in the extra period. It was fun and it's fresh in our memory -- but it doesn't really compare to the others.
To be honest, this one wasn't much of a comeback and doesn't entirely belong on this list. It was however incredibly improbable. The Clippers were down four with less than 20 seconds left. Al Thornton scored to cut the lead in half, but with less than 24 seconds left, the Clippers were forced to foul. Thornton committed a foul before the ball was inbounded, which at the time was one shot and the ball. Steve Blake, an 84% foul shooter that season, missed the foul shot. When Portland inbounded subsequently, the Clippers fouled Blake, who proceeded to miss a PAIR of shots. The odds that an 84% foul shooter will miss three straight is about 0.4%.
Given life the Clippers had the ball back down two and -- turned it over. They fouled again, Blake again, and this time he made one of two. That made him 1-5 in the course of about 12 seconds, and it remained a one possession game. Baron made a double clutch three at the buzzer to force overtime, and the Clippers prevailed in the second extra period.
There are hundreds I'm missing no doubt; games that at least rival that Portland game which was incredibly improbable but not necessarily a great comeback. If we can pair up games, the set of overtime wins where Al Harrington was called for "hanging on the rim" technical fouls in the final seconds of each seems to have come straight out of the infinite improbability drive.
What am I omitting? What are the fondest memories of great Clipper comeback victories?