|Final - 3.25.2009
|Los Angeles Clippers
|New York Knicks
If one were to devise some sort of artificial contrivance to keep Clips Nation interested in these final 11 games, what would it be? I think the most optimistic scenario for making fans feel anything other than numb about this entire season might be for a rookie to break out and play spectacularly well. And whereas we might think that rookie would most likely be Eric Gordon, we already know what he's capable of. But 35 points from Mike Taylor? That's too much to ask for. It's unrealistic. You're dreaming.
This night started like too many other games this season - with the Clippers listless and disinterested. At one point, the Knicks scored 19 points in 3 minutes and 10 seconds in the first quarter. Let that number sink in: 19 points in 190 seconds. That's an astronomical number. I mean, take that whole 'seven seconds or less' thing, make a basket every time you get the ball, and you still have to keep your opponent's possessions down to 13 seconds in order to score 2 points every 20 seconds. Just for giggles, let's figure out how many points a team would score in a game if they could score 2 points every 20 seconds. That's 6 points a minute, times 48 minutes - or 288 points in the game. It goes without saying that New York was getting (and making) any shot they wanted.
The Knicks didn't maintain quite that pace, but they shot 79% for the quarter and at the break the Clippers were behind 44 to 28.
Enter Mike Taylor. Now, D'Antoni teams have always had a tendency to let their opponents back into games. They're not great on defense, and the pace they play at makes for lots of possessions for both teams. Amazingly, Taylor and the Clippers erased the entire deficit and briefly took the lead in the second quarter.
Mike Taylor's NBA career high before tonight was 15 points. He scored 17 in the second quarter. We've seen him play with energy and provide a spark in brief spurts. We've seen him break down defenses and get to the rim. We've seen him provide a one man fast break. We've seen him convert a variety of floaters and other creative shots in the lane. But we haven't seen him do those things over a prolonged period in a game. Usually he'll follow a quick burst of scoring with an equally quick burst of turnovers. Not tonight. He had an immediate impact upon entering the game in the second quarter. He started the second half and had an impact. And he scored 6 points in the overtime. He was remarkable the entire time.
And whereas we've seen him do many of the things he did tonight before, he also did some things that we HAVEN'T seen from him. Like make free throws. A 64% foul shooter on the season, his career high for most free throws in a game without a miss was 2. He went 7 for 7. Or how about making jump shots? He was only shooting 35% from the field coming in, and much worse than that on anything from further than 10 feet. He went 14 for 20 overall, including multiple jump shots. It was just one of those nights. Even when things went wrong, they went right - he only missed 6 shots, and he got half of those back on offensive rebounds. The one time he made one of his ill-advised forced passes (a no look over the head thing into a crowded lane for which I don't even know who the intended recipient was), the ball somehow found it's way to Zach Randolph, and it wound up being a highlight reel play when Al Thornton followed Zach's miss with a two handed follow jam. Like I said, it was one of those nights.
Taylor's night overshadowed an almost as remarkable game from Randolph. He finished with 33, on 15 for 21 shooting. It was the kind of night that we had come to expect from Zach in his first three weeks with the club but which have become more scarce lately, where he was simply automatic provided he could get even a sliver of daylight for his left hand. He made all manner of difficult shots look easy - in fact, one of the easiest looks he had all night was one of his six misses.
But as remarkable as Taylor was, and as remarkable as Zach was, the story of the game has got to be Al Harrington.
As you may recall, in the meeting in LA, which the Clippers won in OT, Harrington was having a nightmare of a game. But on a crucial possession with his team up by one in the final minute, he grabbed an offensive rebound and stuffed it back in with 27 seconds left - and hung on the rim, drawing a technical foul. With only enough time for one more possession, the Clippers made the tehnical free throw and tied the game with a two point basket, forcing overtime. If Harrington doesn't get that T, the Clippers are forced to go for a three pointer in that situation.
In this game, he was having a tremendous game, when on a crucial possession with his team up by one in the final minute, he made a great move and got a dunk with 25 seconds left - and hung on the rim, drawing a technical foul. Once again, the Clippers made the free throw and scored two more (this time it was Z-Bo free throws) to force overtime.
It's hard to fathom how unlikely this is. It's an unusual play to begin with. I honestly can't recall ever having seen it before - a technical after a basket that immediately turns the hero into the goat. But the exact same guy, in the exact same situation, doing the exact same thing? As Chazz Michael Michaels would say, it's mind-bottling, like "when things are crazy and it's like your mind is trapped in a bottle."
There are some interesting tangents I could go on after this game. Like how the Clippers have only won 18 games all season, and yet at least four of them were unlikely in the extreme. Or how the Clippers have a slow, boring point guard who is making $13M per year and a lightning quick exciting point guard who is making the rookie minimum, and I'd much rather see the rookie on the floor right now. (How about MDsr starting Taylor over Baron in the second half? That took some nerve.)
But before I go there, I have to get my mind out of this bottle.