Most teams do everything in their power to make the game easier for them. But the 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Clippers have taken the exact opposite approach. One game after shooting 13-30 from the free throw to make Game 3 “waaaay too close”, the Clippers blew a 10-point lead at home with 4:14 to go in the 4th quarter as the game slipped into overtime. But even without the services of a fouled out Blake Griffin, the Clippers found a way to win. Chris Paul willed the team to victory with 8 points in the overtime frame as the Clippers opened a 3 game to 1 lead in the best of seven series.
Paul had just executed a perfect “2-for-1” opportunity as he gave the Clips a 2-point lead on his ankle-breaking take to the hole with 26.9 seconds to go. After Zach Randolph answered CP3 with two free throws to tie the game at 87, the Clippers gave the ball again to their unquestioned leader. Everyone in the building knew that Paul would have the ball and that included the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies did a nice job pushing Paul back on his initial drive and then doubled him hard in the paint. With four Grizzlies converging upon him and four Clippers standing around watching Paul, he had nowhere to go with the basketall as the game ended without a shot attempt. For an elite player like Paul who prides himself in dominating in “big spots” it was a horrific turn of events. But the game was won “mentally” between the 4th quarter and overtime.
The game turned on the strength of CP3’s ability to “move on mentally” from that play. Like a closer in baseball who forgets about a blown save the night before, Paul came out in overtime and dominated. Paul had 8 points on an array of fade away jumpers as Paul put on a clinic in regards to “creating space” vs. a defender. CP3’s ability to overcome his mishap (and the lack of any sort of creative play calling of his coach) was truly not only the turning point of the game but also could be the turning point of the series moving forward.
What it Means:
The Clippers have the opportunity to close out the Grizzlies on the road Wednesday. This is an amazing statement considering they easily could have just been swept 4-0. The Clips have won their 3 games by a combined 6 points but the clutch play of Chris Paul is the ultimate difference in the series.
Follow me on twitter @clippersnation1 and @coachhaz. I am a writer for rantsports.com and coach Varsity Basketball.