Every great team has a quality or identity that makes them successful and unique. The Los Angeles Clippers are slowly coming to terms with the fact that their identity is more like a Houdini act as they have become one of the greatest escape artists in the NBA today. Once again Chris Paul and company found a way to win despite having to rally in the 4th quarter (again) and withstanding a horrific 13-30 shooting effort from the charity stripe. Six days after the “Miracle in Memphis”, CP3 and his teammates won another tight game at the Staples Center that gave the Clippers a 2-1 series advantage.
1. Clippers have Heart:
The Staples Center handed out nearly 19,000 red t-shirts to fire up the crowd and it worked! Staples was alive and the symbolic nature of the t-shirt should not be dismissed. The Clipper all year have had the ability to rally, as their 15 comeback wins of 10 or more points allude to. In a game where they couldn’t hang onto the ball (17 turnovers) and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from the free throw line, the Clippers found a way to go on a 19-9 run midway through the 4th quarter to eek out the 1-point win. Caron Butler exemplified the definition of heart as he started with a fracture in his left hand. Reggie Evans entire skill set is rooted in heart, effort and intensity, as he contributed a monster game when they needed him most: 4 points and 11 boards.
The Clipper may be a lot of things (loose with the ball, young, horrific at the free throw line, etc.) but two traits they certainly possess: Heart and determination.
2. The Clippers’ Bench is Electric.
The only starter with a plus/minus rating was Chris Paul (+8) as every other starter was -5 or worse. The bench conversely was a combined+24. Reggie Evans, Nick Young and Mo Williams all had their moments and while Eric Bledsoe struggled in the last minute of the game at the free throw line (1-4), his prior aggressive play put the Clippers in position for the victory. The Clippers bench is either outstanding or struggles on a night-to-night basis, they were the difference in Game 3.
3. Chris Paul is Clutch
Once again CP3 was the difference in this game. Paul dropped in 24 points, dished out 11 assists and ripped 4 steals in his 41 minutes of action. However his gaudy stats don’t tell the whole story as Paul does his best work in the 4th quarter. With the game tied at 80, Paul nailed a fade away to put the Clippers up 2. Then he assisted beautifully on a “Lobcity” dunk to his Chemistry lab partner Blake Griffin to put the Clippers up four. Then to calmly stroked two free throws to give the Clips what seemed like an insurmountable 6-point lead with 23 seconds remaining (Rudy Gay had other ideas).
When you watch the Clippers play night in-and night-out it becomes very obvious that without Chris Paul these Clippers would be a fun team to watch but wouldn’t be able to finish out games. In the Western Conference they would not be a playoff team without the clutch play of Christopher Paul. But with CP3 the Clippers consistently find ways to win, as the magician has a clutch gene that is the ultimate trump card in the 4th quarter.
Chris Paul is the reason the Clippers win this series in 6 games. LeBron James may want to take notes.
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