It was almost a disaster for the L.A. Clippers.
A deafening home crowd and questionable defensive adjustments and substitution patterns for Doc Rivers left the Clippers down 14 points in the first quarter. In the second period, Blake Griffin left the game with an apparent leg injury. At halftime, we would learn that Griffin had suffered a toe injury and would not return.
With the Clippers trailing by 9, the panic meter was at an all-time high.
But Chris Paul came through. With 24 second-half points, and amazing play after amazing play, Paul overcame Doc Rivers’ pitiful rotations and hoisted the Clippers to an impressive road playoff win.
Even though Gordon Hayward had a tremendous offensive game, scoring 38 points, Luc Mbah a Moute’s defensive contributions still changed the game, and Luc posted a playoff career high 15 points. DeAndre Jordan came alive in the second half, freeing Chris Paul with solid screens and rolling to the rim for thunderous finishes. He finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Off of the bench, the Clippers’ three key subs all turned in their best game of the series. Jamal Crawford struggled defensively, but added 9 points on 4-10 shooting. Raymond Felton posted 9 points of his own on 4-6 shooting, coming up with buckets in big moments while Chris Paul rested. Marreese Speights, starting the second half in place of Blake Griffin, added 9 points and was a +12 in his 19 minutes played.
Paul Pierce, who continues to inexplicably see playoff minutes despite repeated errors on both ends of the floor, went -4 in 21 minutes—including playing down the stretch alongside Chris Paul’s supernova scoring. The Clippers won the game by 5 points, which means they were +9 in 27 non-Pierce minutes. It sure would be nice if he didn’t see the floor any more after tonight.
Right now, we don’t know anything about Blake Griffin’s status for game 4 or the remainder of the series. Here’s what we do know: the Clippers have a 2-1 lead going into Sunday night’s game 4, and Taylor Smith is coming later tonight with a full recap of the Clippers’ thrilling game 3 victory.