I forgive you if you didn't tune in to this game. You can't expect much from two tired NBA teams in late March, not with both playing on the wrong end of a back-to-back. I sure didn't. And for 47 minutes, you would've been right.
Then the final minute happened. Jamal Crawford happened. And Damian Lillard too. Twice each. And J.J. Redick finished it all off with a buzzer-beating jumper to topple the Portland Trail Blazers, 96-94.
One minute to make having watched 47 tired, sloggy, sloppy minutes of basketball all worthwhile.
It began with a DeAndre Jordan offensive rebound, which eventually found its way to Jamal Crawford's hands and into the bottom of the net for a go-ahead three-pointer with 51 whole seconds remaining. Crawford never seems to tire, not with that smooth style of his. He kept this game within reach with 19 points in the second half, totaling 25 for the game.
Damian Lillard, he of the frequent and famed fourth-quarter fireworks, scored his first points of the final frame with a basket and-1 shortly after Jamal's big three had stirred a listless crowd. Lillard finished with 18 points and 8 assists, but converted just 25% of his field goal attempts.
After two Chris Paul free throws tied the game at 91, Damian Lillard stroked a 25-foot three with 23 seconds remaining. So Jamal Crawford raised his game, knocking down a 29-foot jumper to save a broken possession and re-tie the game.
The Blazers took possession with a tick over 11 seconds remaining, and Chris Paul, tired legs and all, locked up Lillard. Portland couldn't get its star scorer the ball, resulting in 5th-option Maurice Harkless taking and missing a wild layup.
Luc Mbah a Moute's rebound set up one final Clippers possession with 1.1 seconds remaining. Doc Rivers drew up his play, JJ Redick curled around a screen like in so many first-quarter possessions, and dropped one last jumper through the hoop like a dagger through Portland's collective heart. Those were only his 10th and 11th points of the game, but they were plenty.
If that final minute sounds exciting, it's because it was. And it was just as fun and exhilarating as the rest of this game was not. The first half of this game featured the Clippers and Blazers combining to start oh-for-nine from the field; three goaltending calls, all in the first quarter; DeAndre Jordan converting just 1 of his first 8 free throws while Portland Head Coach Terry Stotts cheerfully hacked him; a 1-for-13 three-point performance from the typically hot-shooting Blazers; and, oh yeah, Chris Paul limping off the court with a scary-looking knee injury from which he would thankfully return.
Ed Davis looked like the only player on the court with any first-half bounce. He paced the Blazers with 11 and 5 on 100% shooting in that first half, because he loves playing the Clippers apparently. (According to the Clippers' broadcast, Davis averaged 14 and 12 against the Clippers in their first three games this season. I would joke that Doc will surely sign him now, except it wouldn't be a joke -- Davis is good.)
The third quarter was more of the same energy-wise. Only, DeAndre picked up his fourth foul just six minutes in, and Doc opted to give Chris Paul a long rest, beginning with 4:51 left in that third quarter. Both events came in the midst of an 18-to-4 Portland run that flipped a 7-point halftime deficit, a Portland run that ended with, appropriately, a Jamal Crawford three.
DeAndre Jordan eventually picked up his free throw shooting, finishing 6 of 16, and was solid throughout. He tallied 12 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Paul was sloppier than usual, and given his heavy workload of late one can hardly blame him, but he still worked his way to 25 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds.
For the Blazers, CJ McCollum finishes as the unsung hero of the fourth quarter, as he largely ran the offense while Paul negated Lillard. McCollum had his share of untidy play, turning the ball over 4 times, all in the first half, but he managed 17 points for the game on 50% shooting.