Chris Paul had a fairly nightmarish three-game stretch to open the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. He scored just 9.3 points per game on a paltry 30.8 percent shooting, earned just seven trips to the line (and, stunningly, made just two of his tries), and gave up a turnover for every 1.63 assists he dished, a cough-up rate more than 60 percent worse than the stellar 4.38-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio he managed during the regular season. Having a tough time with the Spurs isn't necessarily remarkable in and of itself; most players have had problems with the Spurs this year, which is they're 58-16 since the ball went up on Christmas Day.
But Chris Paul isn't most players, a fact of which he reminded us late in the fourth quarter Sunday, when he entered the lane, encountered three San Antonio defenders, absorbed the contact and flipped up some nonsense ... that took a couple of gentle bounces on the very top of the backboard (which is still in play) before bouncing back down through the hoop. It's a shot the most practiced H-O-R-S-E wizard wouldn't bet a nickel on, and it's something Chris Paul made to tie an elimination playoff game with 2 1/2 minutes left, before hitting the and-one freebie to give the Clips the lead.
Of course, it was an elimination game that the Clippers went on to lose. After scoring L.A.'s final seven points, Paul couldn't bring the Clips across the finish line by himself against a Spurs side that seems Marianas deep. The 102-99 loss sends San Antonio on to the Western Conference finals and Paul and his mates home after two rounds. Luckily for us, though, Game 4 also sent NBA fans off with a couple of other things.
It sent us off into the remainder of our postseason-watching lives with both another reminder of who Chris Paul is (23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 11 assists to two turnovers, six rebounds and two steals against waves of tough Spurs defenders, all with a balky groin strained in L.A.'s opening-round win over the Memphis Grizzlies) and one last play to live on in highlight reel history, authored by a team that promised to be a highlight factory, bristled at being recognized as such, and then went out and kept giving us things to be excited about, night in and night out en route to arguably the best season in franchise history. Paul might not want us to remember his team as "Lob City," but thanks in part to plays like the one he turned in Sunday night, we will remember them.
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- San Antonio Spurs
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