You’d be forgiven if you turned this game off in the third quarter.
Fueled by furious defense, the L.A. Clippers completed the largest comeback in NBA playoff history — against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, no less. The Clips scored a franchise-record 85 second-half points and erased a 31-point deficit to steal Game 2 of the first-round series, 135-131.
The eighth-seeded Clippers weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs. They dealt their best player, Tobias Harris, in a salary cap-clearing move at the trade deadline. They start two rookies and stocked the rotation with players from the NBA scrap heap. Yet, they never stopped coming, and the Warriors learned that the hard way.
No KD/Draymond postgame interviews tonight. Zipped out of the locker room without talking.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 16, 2019
Warriors' Andrew Bogut on the locker room mood after 31-point collapse in Game 2 loss to Clippers: "The mood’s s---. And that’s actually a positive sign in my opinion. It wasn’t something where we were like, ‘Oh, we’ll get them next time.’ We’re genuinely pissed off about it."— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 16, 2019
Houston Rockets castoffs Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams were most relentless for the Clippers, outworking the Warriors’ superstar-laden squad at every turn. Beverley, in particular, was practically a zombie, eating at Kevin Durant until they both fouled out. The Clips’ All-Defensive-caliber guard embodied the never-say-die attitude that inspired the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history.
A Durant dunk plus the foul gave the Warriors a 94-63 advantage with 7:31 left in the third quarter, and it appeared as though Golden State would get a chance to rest their four remaining healthy All-Star starters (DeMarcus Cousins suffered “a significant quad injury” in the first half). The champs looked like the champs again.
.@LAClippers were +17500 down 31 with 7:15 left in the 3rd quarter.. (which is extremely below value when compared to actual win probability). Actual chance of winning down 31 with 7 mins left is roughly 0.09% or +111,011 https://t.co/rBoPvTN2De— Tyler Wyatt (@TylerWyattWins) April 16, 2019
But the Clips chipped away. Jamychal Green, acquired at the deadline, worked a dunk and a 3-pointer into a 7-0 run. Williams scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and added four assists over the final 7:31 of the third, as L.A. halved the deficit. The Clippers scored 44 third-quarter points — and still trailed by 14 entering the fourth.
Then, Williams and Harrell then scored 27 of the Clippers’ 41 fourth-quarter points.
“You get lost in the game,” Williams told reporters afterwards. “Once you cut the lead to 12, you cut the lead to 10, and then you realize you’ve got a game going. I’m one of those guys who can get hot, and I just got lost in the moment.”
Even as Golden State’s lead dwindled into the single digits, it always seemed like the Warriors would ward off the comeback. They are the Warriors, after all. So, when L.A. cut the lead to 125-123 with 3:49 left, Durant drove for another dunk and the foul, pushing it back to two possessions. And when Williams tied it, 128-128, Stephen Curry answered with a 3-pointer that took the lead back in the final minute.
But Williams cut it to one with another of so many fadeaways, and the two rookies — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet — found one another on a 3-pointer that finally tilted the score in the Clips’ favor with 15.9 second left, 133-131.
Curry went for the win, and when his 27-footer went wide, Harrell sunk his two ensuing free throws to seal as stunning a victory as you will ever see in the NBA.
Asked what the key was to limiting Durant over 32 minutes, Beverley asked reporters, “What you think?” When the answer didn’t come, he said, “Be Pat.”
“I can’t help him being irritated by me,” he added of defending KD. “It’s not my fault. I go out there, and I try to be the best defender on this f—-ing planet.”
Clippers-Warriors had a comeback/game that generates crazy win probability graphs like this that will show up on database searches for years to come! (h/t @ESPNStatsInfo & @inpredict) #LACvsGSW #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/ozKmmcugNc— Alok Pattani (@AlokPattani) April 16, 2019
The Clips outscored the Warriors 72-37 over the final 19:31, shooting 27-of-39 from the field (69.2 percent). Those stats don’t reflect heart. Most teams would have folded when Beverley only began digging in. This series may well end in a five-game win for the Warriors, but that 31-point comeback lives forever. As if those numbers — three and one — weren’t already echoing in the Oracle Arena hallway.
The Clippers weren’t supposed to be here, and yet they’re tied with the Warriors entering Wednesday’s Game 3 in L.A., where Beverley will still be hounding Durant.
Patrick Beverley is celebrating the win by doing an extra strength workout in the locker room.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) April 16, 2019
Even if the Warriors blow out the Clips, you better stay until the end this time.
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