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2012 NBA Playoffs: LA Clippers' Comeback Victory Over Grizzlies Makes History

Aaron Fischman |
April 30, 2012 | 12:42 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor

LA native and former USC guard Nick Young made 3 crucial three-pointers in a one-minute span to power the Clips to victory in Game 1. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
LA native and former USC guard Nick Young made 3 crucial three-pointers in a one-minute span to power the Clips to victory in Game 1. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night, 99-98, in a game that featured one of the biggest comebacks in NBA playoffs history. 

Despite trailing the home team by as many as 27 points on two occasions, somehow the Clippers were able to recover just in time to secure the highly improbable Game 1 victory. In fact, the Clippers fell behind, 95-71, with 9:12 remaining in the game. 

At that point, many coaches would have strongly considered pulling their best starters from the game in order to rest them and prepare for Game 2. Rightly so, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro considered this course of action, but according to Chris Paul, he begged the coach to insert he and Blake Griffin back into the game.  

It’s a gross understatement to say that the move paid dividends, but over the final 9:12, the Clippers earned the hard-fought victory as a team. Paul and Griffin played well in the final quarter, but it was a collective team victory more than anything. 

With the huge comeback, the Clippers tied an NBA playoff record for largest deficit overcome at the end of three quarters. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies held a comfortable 21-point lead (85-64). 

The fourth-quarter shot chart and play-by-play account are incredible to analyze, but unless you watch those final nine minutes and 12 seconds, no statistics will do Sunday night’s events enough justice. You must watch it.

Many of the statistics are extremely difficult to believe. Over the final 9:12, the Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 28-3. That’s right. After doing whatever it wanted offensively to the tune of 95 points in the game’s first 39 minutes, Memphis could only muster three points in the last 9:12 of Game 1. 

''We just got careless,'' Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. ''We just lost a little bit of our discipline from a defensive perspective. But offensively, we just started walking it up and trying to throw it into the post instead of running it in. We ran earlier. We attacked. We were in transition earlier. We just stopped doing that and got conservative and it cost us.''

After the Clippers failed to contain Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who shot 6-7 in the first quarter, Gasol failed to attempt a single shot in the fourth quarter. Similarly, Mike Conley Jr. made four treys in the third quarter, but went 0-2 in the fourth.  

Over that remarkable, 9:12 closing stretch, the Clippers connected on 10 of 14 field goals, whereas the Grizzlies converted just 1 of 14. During that time, the Grizzlies were outrebounded 16-3. So not only did Memphis suddenly turn ice cold from the field, it also lost its ability to rebound effectively. Believe it or not, Reggie Evans grabbed more than twice as many fourth-quarter rebounds as the entire Grizzlies team. 

It’s interesting to note that the Clippers’ first lead did not come until Paul fed Evans for an open layup with 58 seconds left. 

Second-year guard Eric Bledsoe played like a veteran in the final quarter of Game 1. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Second-year guard Eric Bledsoe played like a veteran in the final quarter of Game 1. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)

With the Clippers down by nine points with fewer than three minutes left, former Trojan Nick Young made three treys in a span of one minute. Young, Griffin and Eric Bledsoe combined for 26 of the Clippers’ 37 fourth-quarter points.

The Clippers’ undoubted leader, aka Mr. Chris Paul, went into the locker room at the half with just one point and three assists, but finished with a respectable 14 points and 11 assists. Particularly in the fourth quarter, Paul was especially effective at finding open Clippers.

Before Sunday night’s utter collapse, the Grizzlies won 17 of 18 home games in which they led at halftime. Memphis also came into Game 1 with six consecutive victories and 11 straight at home. 

Playoff newcomers Griffin and DeAndre Jordan looked especially nervous in the opening quarter. 

“Now we’ve demystified the playoff process for Blake [Griffin] and DeAndre Jordan and Nick Young,” said Clippers general manager Neil Olshey.

Although the psychological aspect of losing such a huge lead at home could spell disaster for the Grizzlies, there are still many games left in the best-of-seven series. 

''We turned something that we worked so hard for - home-court advantage - to an ugly loss in Game 1,'' O.J. Mayo (another former Trojan) said. ''We've got to come back Game 2 with the attitude we can't quit.''

Although the Clippers are flying high after stealing such a crucial Game 1 on the road, they did lose starting small forward Caron Butler to a fractured bone in his left hand. Butler will be sidelined for four to six weeks, which could mean the rest of the playoffs depending on how far the Clippers can go.

Game 2 will be played Wednesday night in Memphis, but you can bet that it won’t be nearly as historic as Game 1.

Contact Aaron via email or Twitter.



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