First, let's get this out of the way. I must never lie to my Clipper brothers, and so I fully admit that this is what I had originally written:
I started writing this in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, with the Mavericks up 17 points, 123-106, with only 4:49 left on the clock. My conventional wisdom has always told me that conventional comebacks conventionally occur at a rate of 10 points per 5 minutes of playing-time. The Clippers started showing a little spark, but it seemed to be too little, too late. I wasn't going to stop writing just because the Clippers were making it close. In fact, I was about to write about how the game wasn't even as close as the final score made it seem.
That is, until Mike Smith uttered the greatest sentence he's ever spoken:
"So you're saying there's a chance."
Slightly misquoted, sure, but we all knew where he was going with this. Apparently, Mike Smith is a genius.
But let's get back to how this comeback all began. The Clippers were down by the aforementioned 17 points, and Griffin was on the floor, carrying a technical he'd received earlier in the game, as part of an odd double technical called between Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki. The Clippers went on a small 5-0 run, and then, as if copied from Andrew Bogut and Mark Jackson, Vince Carter seemed to try and bait Griffin into a second tech, in order to get him thrown out of the game. But Griffin had apparently learned something from his last experience and did nothing but back away. Redick made the technical free throw for his 30th point (more on him later), and Monta Ellis answered with a layup at the other end. To keep track, that was a 6-2 run for the Clippers so far.
The very next Clipper possession, just as Jamal Crawford sank a three pointer, Samuel Dalembert, this time, attempted to bait Griffin into a second tech by completely uprooting him on a rebound scuffle, resulting in a flagrant foul on Dalembert. Fortunately, Griffin was hugged (yup) by one of the referees and made no motion toward Dalembert, again avoiding the technical. It was actually pretty fun watching Blake smile as he knew precisely what Dalembert and Carter were trying to do. (Note: Personally, I think it was the players trying to do this to Blake, not some mantra by Rick Carlisle, just because I have so much respect for him as a coach. He's no Mark Jackson.) Blake made his free throw, and with possession after the foul, Jamal made a layup. The Clippers were now on a 12-2 run.
Monta Ellis made a long jumper, and that would be the last time the Mavericks would score. All of these easy points from stupid Maverick fouls gave the Clippers life, and it gave them hope that they could win. The Clippers would go on to score the next 11 points, in two minutes of pure chaos. And when I say pure chaos, I mean completely lucky chaos that somehow works out for the Clippers:
- Blake fouls Dirk but it happens to be just before they are over the limit.
- Dirk misses an iso-back-down from the elbow being guarded by the short-armed JJ Redick.
- Jamal Crawford drives it in, trips over nothing, falls on the ground, somehow finds Blake, Blake somehow finds Matt Barnes (more on him later too), and Matt Barnes sinks the three.
- Dirk misses an iso-back-down from the elbow being guarded by the short-short Darren Collison.
- JJ Redick somehow tips himself a rebound over the 6'9" Shawn Marion and 6'11" Dalembert.
- Jamal is fouled shooting a three pointer.
- Jamal misses one of the free throws, keeping the game a 2-possession game.
- Referees reset the shot clock for the Mavs, shortening the game, when Blake saves the ball with a "controlled" save (no disagreement here, it's just more chaos).
And finally, the chaos ended, fittingly, with a JJ Redick three-pointer---Oh wait, no it didn't.
- Dirk misses a slightly-lately-contested jumper over DJ from 15 feet out.
- Jamal gets fouled on a complete circus shot by Shawn Marion.
- Jose Calderon (40.8% career 3P%) misses a wide-open three-pointer.
- DJ decides NOT to pass the ball to a guard on the rebound, but goes 1 of 2 from the stripe.
Okay, so finally, the clock read all zeros, and the Clippers were somehow, in some way, the victors of this match. What a ride. So, aside from those last 5 minutes, who were the heroes of the game?
Well, the offense was riding JJ Redick's coattails the entire first half, and then found itself confused when he was smothered by defenders in the second half (though it didn't stop Redick from having a career-high 33 points). Redick was everywhere on offense, making plays and making shots. Finishing with a game-high 33 points and going 7-9 from three, the game ball definitely goes to Mr. Redick.
Aside from Darren Collison, who had a quiet 13 points and 10 assists, Blake was the team's playmaker this game. He went through much of the first half without scoring much, but still finished the game with a near triple double: 23 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds. He's doing it all for this team, and he's the reason they're 5-1 since Chris Paul went down. Okay, I have another game ball, so that one can go to Blake.
Matt Barnes started the game with a dunk, a very long, ill-advised three-pointer, and a spinning circus shot. But Matt's also a player who just needs to see the ball go through the hoop to get his confidence going, and man, did it go. Once he made that first three, he never looked back, finishing with 25 points and 7 rebounds, while shooting 5-10 from downtown. I'm all out of game balls, but I have an iPad. Matt gets an iPad.
The Other Guys
Why was this game in such doubt earlier, then, if these three played so well? Darren Collison and Jared Dudley were both solid, doing their parts as expected. But Jamal Crawford... oh Jamal. Until those last 5 minutes of the game, he was a chucking train-wreck. He even got a, "Not even close," from Ralph Lawler, at one point. However, Jamal was pretty clutch, and somehow got the calls at the end, so all is forgiven. And DeAndre Jordan... oh DJ. He was playing some of the worst interior defense I've seen from him in years. He made Sam Dalembert and Brandan Wright look like All Stars (they combined for 33 points on 75% shooting). But he was also the only one rebounding, finishing with 13 boards, so again, all is forgiven. If the Clippers had lost, I'd be blaming it all on those two, but since they won, it's easy enough to forgive and forget.
This was far from the prettiest win for the Clippers, but it'll look the same in the books, when all is said and done. And right now, that's all that matters, since we're just trying to tread water and hold onto our Pacific Division lead until Chris Paul comes back. So this win will do just fine.