Down 13 points with three minutes and a half, Tyronn Lue made the right decision to sub out Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac, and John Wall out of the game. Then and there, he was waving the white flag.
So is what everyone — critics, players and fans alike — thought. But, no — it wasn’t a passive waving of the team’s white flag. It was instead a fearless brandishing of a red alert.
After the substitutions, the Clippers cruised on a 16-2 run to force overtime, piercing through the hopes and heart of the Detroit Pistons. In overtime, the Clips wasted no time in further puncturing into and eventually finishing off the Pistons: the L.A. team outscored them 14-3 in extra time.
And in their valiant efforts, they made history: according to ESPN, prior to tonight, teams were 2-12,873 when trailing by more than 14 with three minutes left on the clock. Securing tonight’s win, the Clippers have become the third team to make such a comeback; now they stand with an all-time team record of 1-417 in that scenario.
Paul George led his crew with a double-double, putting up 32 points and 11 assists. His crowd-shushing and-one, alongside his four other points in overtime, was the final jab that sent the Pistons falling down the floor. But he isn’t the only Clipper we should be crediting.
With a game-high plus-minus of 28, Terance Mann did it all in 21 minutes of play. His three steals snatched the momentum away from the Pistons and into the hands of the Clippers, and his mid-range jumper was what cleaned up a very sloppy final sequence, ultimately sending the team to overtime.
Everyone else who saw the floor had their moments too. Zubac’s 15-rebound double-double kept the Clipper boat afloat throughout the game; starters Reggie Jackson and Morris combined for 30 points; the bench trio of Wall, Luke Kennard and Norman Powell knocked down 10 threes this game.
While it might not have been against the toughest of opponents, a comeback win like this reminds — and warns — the league of what the Clippers are made of.
They are still the same tough-fighting persistent group of hoopers, all with chips on their shoulders. Of superstars that know how to control the pace and momentum of the game. Of veteran presence that knows well enough the game isn’t over until the final buzzer. Of young talent that will fight, fight, fight even if wins start to wane away from them.
This team proved once again, however, that nothing is quite beyond reach for this special clique of players. And it’s only a matter of time before this deep, star-stacked team breaks another record en route to their perhaps eventual championship.