One of the best games of the 2014-15 season so far received a fantastically fitting ending. Over nearly 53 minutes of play, the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns played an intense, close, and exciting contest that could have easily gone either way. Then Blake Griffin finished the night with a thrill.
With the Clippers down 120-118 and only 2.6 seconds remaining in overtime, Griffin took a short inbounds pass from Chris Paul and quickly stepped back for a potential game-winning three-pointer. The ball initially looked on its way to the floor after catching front rim, but a fortuitous bounce gave the Clippers the lead.
The 121-120 victory extends the Clippers' winning streak to eight games, which makes them the second-hottest team in the NBA behind the surging Golden State Warriors. However, the game very easily could have gone the other way.
Griffin was terrific all night with 45 points (14-of-24 FG, 15-of-17 FT) in 43 minutes, but he made a decision right before his winner that nearly cost the Clippers the game. With a foul to give, the Suns grabbed Griffin on a drive to the basket that looked like it could have ended in a shot. However, Griffin passed out of the trap to find an open shooter in the corner, which meant that Los Angeles had very little time to tie or win. Obviously, things worked out pretty well for the Clippers.
Yet this ending was just the last in a string of crazy plays throughout the game. For instance, the Clippers only had the ball on the final possession because of a shot-clock violation by the Suns that required replay review to ensure that Goran Dragic had missed rim on a jumper that ended up in the hands of Gerald Green, whom head coach Doc Rivers desperately wanted the Clippers to foul. Oh, and the game ended up in overtime because of a blocked shot by Eric Bledsoe on a potential winner from Chris Paul:
There was much more, too — Jamal Crawford received the first ejection of his career in the fourth quarter for arguing a foul call, and Jared Cunningham made a very unlikely four-point play at the end of the first half off a trademark baseball pass from Matt Barnes:
Yet the game was much more than bizarre occurrences. Both teams played at full energy levels with the sort of urgency that would seem a better fit for the playoffs than a random Monday in December. Bledsoe in particular seemed to relish the opportunity to play his former team, notching his first-career triple-double with 27 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in 45 minutes. Six of the nine Suns who saw the floor scored in double figures, with virtually every player in the bunch making some big play that could have easily added up to a win.
The bad news for the Suns was that they were playing Griffin, who showed off the full catalogue of offensive abilities that critics have wanted to see from him since he first burst onto the scene as a highlight-dominating rookie. He hit both of his three-point attempts, several more jumpers, difficult finishes in the lane, and plenty of free throws. If that wasn't enough, Griffin also had one of his most impressive dunks in recent memory:
The game-winner saved the Clippers from a loss, but Griffin's shot and this game as a whole were already stellar. Anyone who stayed up late for the last game of the NBA's Monday schedule was surely not disappointed. This one had everything.
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