For the third-consecutive game the Clippers came down to the final seconds at home. And for the third-consecutive game the team called upon unflappable guard Lou Williams to put away an impressive victory.
Williams, the league’s top scorer in the fourth quarter, canned a long 3-pointer from the right wing and found Danilo Gallinari out of a Spurs trap, which led to a mismatch and a pair of free throws in the final minute, as the Clippers outlasted the San Antonio Spurs, 116-111, Thursday at Staples Center.
Gallinari and Williams knocked down four more free throws to ice the game, but it was Williams who, yet again, was asked to carry L.A. (9-5) as they overcame a Spurs (7-7) comeback and 34 points from All-Star DeMar DeRozan to win for the third time in a row and fifth time in their last six games.
Williams finished with 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting, but had 9 points in the final quarter, including a 29-foot bomb to break a tie game with 41.4 seconds remaining. He leads the NBA, averaging 8.1 points per game in the fourth this season. In the previous two outings, Williams tilted the game in the waning seconds as well, converting an incredible go-ahead runner to beat the Bucks in overtime on Saturday afternoon and scoring 10 points in the last 1:21 of overtime two nights later to topple the Warriors.
“My focus goes up [in the fourth quarter]. I know it’s winning time,” Williams told Ros Gold-Onwude following the Spurs win. “When you’re a sixth man you kind of train for that moment, you train for that action. So, in the fourth quarter I know guys depend on me and that’s when I lock in.”
At the start of Thursday’s game the Clippers hardly seemed locked in. They earned a one-point lead against a short-handed Spurs team on the second night of a back-to-back, but were hardly their tenacious selves. A brief second-quarter flurry prompted a 14-point advantage, but the Spurs and DeRozan quickly countered and so it went for the remaining 26 minutes, as the Clippers lead was dissolved time and again.
Still, while not operating with their best stuff, they found a way to scrape out another victory. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was scoreless through much of the first three quarters, drilled a key pull-up jumper over Patty Mills, Montrezl Harrell continued to do Harrell-type things, and Gallinari and Harris continued their efficient scoring.
Gallinari had 19 points (8 in the first quarter), going 9-of-10 from the foul line. Harris countered with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting and eight rebounds and five assists. Gilgeous-Alexander had nine points and Harrell scored 14 points with six boards and five assists to round things out for the Clippers.
The Clippers have moved to within a game and a half of first place in the Western Conference… They have the second longest active winning streak in the NBA and are tied for the second best record over the past 10 games… The Clippers outrebounded the Spurs, 50-45. They are 8-0 this season when hauling in more total rebounds than their opponent… It was the fourth time they have grabbed at least 50 boards in a game.
THEY GOT NEXT
The Clippers embark Friday on a three-game road trip that begins Saturday in Brooklyn. They play a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday against the Hawks and Wizards. It is the team’s second three in four nights trip so far this season. They finished 1-2 on the previous trip, but their lone victory (120-109 over Orlando) started their recent stretch of five wins in six games.