In a Western Conference battle, where the winner would emerge as the #2 team, Tony Parker led his San Antonio Spurs into Staples Center, riding a nine game winning streak. The Clippers took a quick 15-4 lead, and led 26-15 at the end of the first period behind 12 Blake Griffin points.
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Parker scored 8 of his 30 in the second period, including a last-second layup, and led a San Antonio Spurs run to take a 45-43 lead going into the locker room Then, Parker came out in the third and dropped 8 more points in the first 5 minutes of the second half as the Clippers fell
behind by 15, 65-50.
Enter Randy Foye. Finally with production fitting of a starter, Foye scored 13 of the Clippers first 15 second-half points, and hit another three pointer to tie the game at 65. Little-used sophomore guard Eric Bledsoe even got some extended run in the third, and made
quite an impact. He played the last 6 minutes of the period, and logged 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and a lot of good defense. Bled also fed Blake Griffin on a monster dunk to take the lead, 67-65.
Fast forward to five minutes left in the final quarter, and Caron Butler has just finished off a 4-point play to give LAC a three point lead, 85-82. And then two of the best teams in the world played basketball. And Tony Parker showed me something that I didn’t think he had in him. He just scored, and scored, and scored. And I don’t know if I remember him missing all game long. The boxscore says he missed 11 shots. I don’t believe it. It felt like every single play Tony Parker was either shooting a layup or an open 15 foot jumper.
There’s 1:38 to go in the game. Chris Paul scores 4 quick points. LAC leads 91-90. Now San Antonio has the ball. Tony Parker draws a foul, and takes a one-point lead with 33 seconds remaining. Chris Paul hits a pair of free throws. Tim Duncan uncharacteristically misses a layup. Paul hits another couple of free shots. The Clippers lead by 3 with 12.6 seconds remaining. But never underestimare Pop. I mean, the guy is the greatest basketball coach of his generation.
And he draws up a play to get Gary Neal, 39% three point shooter, an open shot. The young Neal fumbled the ball, and Rand Foye dives for the ball and calls a timout. The Clippers lead by 3 with the ball and only 9.5 seconds remaining. The Clippers are in second place in the conference. The Clippers win.
Until the unthinkable. Ryan Gomes rushes the inbounds pass to Chris Paul, and, in order to avoid a backcourt violation, Paul throws the ball up. Neal, the goat from the previous play, becomes a hero, hitting a trey to tie the game and force five extra minutes. I missed the play the first time through. Re-watching the fourth quarter again with my dad, I looked away. I couldn’t watch it.
How could Los Angeles be anything but lethargic in this extra period? The game was won, and now you have to play another period? Well, the Clippers never really woke up. Five overtime points, and only a single made field goal. Despite the struggles, Chris Paul had a shot at a three pointer to force another overtime. But he missed. The clock ran out. The Clippers lost. San Antonio beat the best team in the Pacific Division. And that was all she wrote.