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Clippings: Looking back at two historic playoff wins

On April 29, the Clippers earned memorable postseason victories six years apart.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The first piece I ever wrote for this site was about the Clippers’ Game 1 win over the Grizzlies in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs on April 29, 2012.

At the time, it was my favorite Clipper game ever. Last year’s postseason added a new contender to that list, but I am still partial to this one. I adored Eric Bledsoe and Nick Young, I was obsessed with those red jerseys, and I was a sucker for a historic postseason comeback. I still pull up that fourth quarter on occasion.

This is the best game the Clippers have ever played on April 29, though Austin Rivers’ remaining stitches would beg to differ, and it is certainly the most consequential in the arc of this organization. The Clippers not only won a playoff series for the first time in nine years, but they established themselves as a contender in the Western Conference. This was the beginning of a streak when they made the postseason six years in a row, and even if their Lob City dreams came short, that set the foundation for this current Clippers team, which could be the best in franchise history.

There is another game the Clippers played on April 29, back in 2006, one that resonates with me for all the wrong reasons.

The Clippers had qualified for the postseason for the first time in nine years. They had a chance at the fifth seed in the West, but deliberately tanked lucked out to drop to sixth in the conference. Their reward for falling back was to host the 44-38 Denver Nuggets, who earned a top-3 seed by virtue of arcane playoff rules that prioritized division winners, rather than heading to Dallas to face the 60-22 Mavericks.

It is worth nothing that the NBA immediately amended this rule in the offseason to only guarantee division winners a top-4 seed.

The Nuggets were hopelessly outmatched by the Clippers. Denver was a perennial playoff participant, but also a perennial first-round exit, and a young Carmelo Anthony had no shot against Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and all-time favorite Clipper Sam Cassell. The Clippers took care of business by winning the first two games at home. Then on April 29, they smashed the Nuggets in Game 4, 100-86, a contest that is only worth remembering because of an extracurricular incident that took place in the first quarter. As Ernie Johnson put it, Reggie Evans got caught “with his hand in the cookie jar”, and Chris Kaman was appropriately miffed.

Maybe this wasn’t an objectively funny incident, but as a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of it. It led to a predictably great “Inside the NBA” segment because EJ, Kenny, and Charles had the same sense of humor I did. I was in high school at the time, had an AP exam the next day, and could not go to sleep because I was roaring with laughter at Kaman’s impassive narration during his interview and the TNT crew’s reactions. (That, and an incredible Gilbert Arenas press conference where he took the podium after a Wizards loss and quipped, “This is LeBron’s world, we’re just all witnesses.”)

Evans is lucky that by the time he became a Clipper — on my beloved 2012 team — the entire 2006 roster had been cleared out. He went below the belt, literally, and he deserved the suspension, and the series loss, that ensued. Those Clippers flamed out far too soon, but because of Evans and of one of the most absurd acts I’ve ever seen on a basketball court, I’ll always remember them fondly.

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