The Los Angeles Clippers were the better team in the fourth quarter for most of their seven game series with the Memphis Grizzlies -- sometimes uncomfortably so. The Clippers closed Game 1 on a 28-3 run to overcome a 24 point deficit in the final eight minutes. In Game 7, they were once again completely dominant.
The Grizzlies entered the fourth with a one point lead, but that was erased after about 20 seconds and the Clippers never trailed again, building a 10 point lead with seven minutes remaining which also became the final margin. The Clippers won the quarter 27-16.
Depending upon your perspective, the Clippers fourth quarter success in the series was either a case of great Clippers defense or terrible Grizzlies offense -- it was inevitably a little bit of both. The Grizzlies made just 22% of their field goals in the fourth on Sunday, shooting 4-18. The Grizzlies were fortunate to get to the line 12 times (making 8 of their free throws) or the quarter would have gotten really ugly.
At some point, for me anyway, the proceedings began to look eerily familiar. I have an older brother, and late in the fourth quarter, the proceedings began to take on the qualities of one of our games of one-on-one in the driveway growing up, with my dad as the referee. I'd work and hustle and flail about and I was a pretty good player for my age, but he was bigger, stronger and just plain better than me. There was never any question that he was going to win, and sometimes he would just toy with me -- so dad would step in from time to time to try to even things up a bit. He knew the outcome as well as anyone, but he tried to help out however he could, by giving me what amounted to do overs -- though he would always come up with some bogus reason for the do over.
For the final three minutes or so, the Clippers were the dominant, older brother, the Grizzlies were the increasingly desperate younger brother, FedEx Forum was the driveway and the officials were cast in the role of the benevolent dad trying to even things up a bit. Nothing Memphis was doing was working -- at all -- but the refs were determined to give them extra chances.
When Mike Conley lost the ball and went careering through the lane chasing after it, he never really got back under control and eventually the ball went out of bounds at the baseline, Clippers possession, right? In steps dad: "That was a nice try, Mikey. And you know what, I'm pretty sure Nick fouled you at the end there. Go ahead and take a couple of free throws, I bet you'll make 'em buddy. Remember what I told you about following through."
When Chris Paul stole the ball from O.J. Mayo with less than a minute left and the Clippers up seven, that play would have more or less ended Memphis' season. But dad wasn't quite ready to let them give up hope -- I mean, this could really hurt their confidence, and they're so young after all -- so he decided to intervene.
Dad: "Let's give him another chance."
Chris: "But da-ad! I stole the ball."
Dad: "Well, it was a violation... you .. um, kicked it. Yeah, that's it, you kicked it."
Chris: "Seriously? He dribbled it off my foot. Come on."
With 30 seconds left and the lead now up to eight, when pretty much everyone else had given up hope, dad was still out there working hard, trying to keep the final score close at least. When Zach Randolph missed a three, dad called a loose ball foul aainst Paul on the rebound -- this time with no imaginable justification whatsoever. The ref/dad might as well have leaned over to Paul and said "Listen son, I need you to be a good big brother here. It's not like a couple of free throws here is going to change the outcome. Would it kill you to say something encouraging?"
Am I the only one who had these flashbacks in the last few minutes?