Have you all caught your breath yet? Talk about a doozy of a game. This was the first genuinely competitive game in quite some time, and the Clippers overcame some boneheaded plays down the stretch to squeak by with a victory. The hero of the night was, without a doubt, Blake Griffin, who hit an improbable three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to seal the win. He was dominant throughout the contest (45 points on 14 of 24 shooting, 8 rebounds), and the Suns really did not have much of an answer for him. On the whole, neither team played consistently good defense throughout the match, and it was an offense-heavy affair on both sides. It was one of those nights in which the three-ball was not falling for the Clippers, while the Suns seemed to make big three after big three. The Clippers and Suns seemed to trade buckets for most of the first three quarters, with Griffin and Eric Bledsoe (27 points on 8/16 shooting, 16 assists, 11 rebounds) keeping their respective teams in the match. However, the final seventeen minutes of the game (fourth quarter and overtime) were, to put it mildly, crazy. This zany game became an instant regular-season classic (if not a signature win), and it is simply not possible to capture every delectable moment of this game.
The first quarter started out inauspiciously for the Clippers, with Griffin picking up a foul just eight seconds into the game. Bledsoe, never known as a three-point sniper, then proceeded to nail a shot from downtown. From the beginning, the pace seemed to favor the run-and-gun Suns. Also, unlike the previous three games in this homestand, the Clippers could not get J.J. Redick going early (he finished with 17 points, but he was only 2/7 from beyond the arc), and they could not rely on the long ball to get some separation from their opponent in the first quarter. The transition defense was also inadequate. However, it was not all doom and gloom for the Clippers. P.J. Tucker pulled a Ryan Gomes, making possibly the worst inbounds pass of all time. D.J. easily picked off the pass (it looked like Tucker threw it right to him), and finished with a monster slam. Although the Suns came out with a ton of energy, the Clippers managed to keep take the lead on a 15-2 scoring run, largely riding the energy of Griffin and capitalizing on the Suns' six turnovers, and Los Angeles led 26-19 with 2 minutes and 11 seconds left in the frame. However, the Clippers could not effectively close out the quarter, and the game was tied at 28 heading into the second period.
At the start of the second quarter, it became obvious that if Jordan Farmar had managed to play in this game, he would have likely struggled mightily against Bledsoe. In theory, Jared Cunningham is a better matchup for the Suns' guard, but he did have a hard time staying in front of Bledsoe, who was dicing his way into the lane almost at will. Cunningham only played five minutes, but he turned out to have a major impact on the game. The hero early in the quarter was Jamal Crawford, who hit two quick threes to keep the Clippers in the contest. Glen "Big Baby" Davis also showed some hustle and energy, putting in a nice putback off a Crawford missed layup. In this quarter, Griffin nailed his first three-pointer of the game (but it was not the shot from downtown that would ultimately get the most attention). Eventually, the starters came back in, and the second quarter was another dogfight. Down one point with just 1.6 seconds left in the period, the Clippers made some magic courtesy of Matt Barnes and Cunningham. Barnes threw a pinpoint baseball pass to Cunningham, who proceeded to bury a three and get fouled by Bledsoe. A spotty foul shooter, Cunningham managed to complete the four-point play. This gave the Clippers a three point lead, 60-57, heading into intermission.
The third quarter was more of the same, and the Clippers and Suns seemed to be trading baskets. Bledsoe continued to try to put his stamp on the game. Both teams looked somewhat wilted in this period, as players on both teams were producing airballs. However, the Clippers seemed to get into the groove and found success with the center pick-and-roll, resulting in a beautiful lob from Griffin to DeAndre Jordan. At this point, the Clippers had a seven point lead, and it looked like they may start to get some separation from the pesky Suns. The ball movement looked good, and Griffin seemed to be everywhere. He was truly spectacular, and his aggressiveness was encouraging. He was rewarded with frequent trips to the foul line (he was 15 of 17 from the charity stripe for the game). The crowd was really buzzing after a monster Griffin dunk that originated outside the lane with 5 minutes and 16 seconds left in the quarter (Alex Len was wise to step out of the way). It was vintage Griffin, and we have not seen that kind of explosiveness that often this season. It was fitting that he made that play in front of Julius "Dr. J" Erving. The Clippers led 89-80 at the end of the quarter. For those who missed it, here is a video of the dunk:
Now the fourth quarter is where it really gets...interesting. Interesting as in zany. Crawford was given a technical foul after arguing a call less than three minutes into the quarter and then questionably ejected. Crawford, not known as the fiery sort, suddenly found himself experience the first ejection of his career. Doc Rivers proceeded to immediately pick up a technical foul arguing with the referees. It really was this kind of a game. Crawford lingered around hoping that the referees would change their minds, but it was not to be. He was escorted to the lockers. This was a seminal moment in the game, and it breathed life into the Suns. The Clippers seemed to lose focus, and the Suns hit Lawler's Law by leading the Clippers 101-96. However, Griffin continued to dominate throughout the quarter, abusing Len (who eventually fouled out in the quarter) and doing damage at the charity stripe. It was encouraging to see Griffin demand the ball. Words really cannot do justice to how wonderful Griffin was in this game. He was just sensational. This game took an even stranger turn when Paul managed to successfully challenge center Len's point-blank shot, grab the rebound, and get fouled by Len. The Clippers re-took the lead on Paul's subsequent free throws. The Clippers squandered a lead due to some truly awful play, courtesy of Barnes. He awkwardly lost the ball while trying to drive to the hoop with the shot clock winding down,and he then committed an away from the ball foul within the final two minutes. Mind numbingly awful play. Gerald Green hit the free throw to tie the game. The game was tied 112-112 after Bledsoe rejected Paul's potentially game winning shot. It was fitting, as the protégé finally outplayed the mentor. Paul finished the game with 20 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds, but he was only 8 of 23 from the field (and just 1 of 9 from downtown).
The overtime period was sheer insanity. The period again was a tug-of-war between the two teams, with neither getting much separation. At one point, the referees made a call that Davis clearly did not like, and his face became instant .gif material:
However, the highlight of this quarter was the Griffin buzzer-beater. With 43 seconds left in the game, the Suns were up by four points. With the way the Clippers had been playing defense, it did not look like they would be able to get the necessary stops to win the game. With 2.6 secons left in the game, the Clippers were down by two. Somehow, Griffin (the man of the night), managed to plant his feet firmly behind the arc and attempt a three at the buzzer. The ball bounced around the rim, all looked lost...and then it went through the net. Absolute pandemonium erupted around him, and his teammates looked thrilled (and thrilled for him). Let's take another look at this beauty:
Tucker, who had been squabbling with Griffin most of the game (but no fisticuffs), looked sad. It was a magical end to a loony night.