The Greatest Playoff Comeback in L.A. Clippers History
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It happened eight short days ago in Game 1 of the first round of the 2012 playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Coming into this postseason, the Clippers had won just one playoff game in franchise history (since moving from Buffalo and becoming the Clippers) when trailing heading into the fourth quarter. The deficit in that instance? One whole point.
On that fateful night a little over a week ago, the margin was 21. And with just eight minutes left in the game, the gap had opened up to a whopping 24 and key starter Caron Butler had suffered a broken bone in his left hand.
That's when the magic began. Slowly but surely, the Clippers began chipping away at the lead, holding Memphis to 12 straight misses on the defensive end and getting key baskets from deep reserves Reggie Evans and Eric Bledsoe.
Even with three minutes to go, the Clips had only chopped away half of the deficit. Then yet another backup, Nick Young, exploded with three three-point field goals in one minute and all of a sudden FedEx Forum was silent as the Clippers climbed to within three.
After more stalwart defense and another big Evans bucket, Chris Paul sank a pair of free throws with under 24 seconds remaining to give the Clips the lead for good.
Yet another reserve, Kenyon Martin, forced Rudy Gay into a tough jumper on the game's final shot, which ended up glancing harmlessly off the rim. The final buzzer signaled the completion of the greatest playoff comeback in team (and perhaps NBA first round) history.
Thanks to the wizardry of Paul, the Clippers cannot be counted out of games now when trailing in the fourth quarter. In Game 3 of the series, the Clips overcame a seven-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter to take a 2-1 series lead over the Grizzlies.
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The Clippers haven't made things easy for themselves, though. After finishing the regular season second in the league in turnovers at just over 13 a game, they've given the ball away to Memphis at an alarming rate this series. The Clips are dead last among playoff teams in turnovers at nearly 19 a game.
Another phase of the game that has dropped off for the team so far in the postseason is rebounding. The Clippers' rebounding numbers have fallen across the board. Both their offensive and defensive rebound rates have declined significantly.
During the regular season, the Clips were tied for the sixth-best rebound differential, grabbing nearly two more boards a game than their opponents. So far in the playoffs, the Clippers rank 12 out of 16 playoff teams in rebound margin, getting out-boarded by nearly three per game by the Grizzlies.
Finally, the Clippers are sending Memphis to the line far too often. The Grizzlies are the only team right now in the postseason averaging over 30 free-throw attempts per contest, getting to the line 32 times a game. During the regular season, no team allowed more than 27.2 free-throw attempts a game to their opponents.
Couple Memphis' sheer volume of foul shot attempts with the Clippers' own woes at the line, and the Grizzlies have enjoyed an astonishing 10 point per game advantage at the charity stripe so far this series.
That massive edge has all but canceled out the fact the Clippers are shooting nearly seven full percentage points better than Memphis over the three games, the second best field goal percentage differential in the playoffs.
If the Clips can improve in these three areas of the game, they can win this series even when their shooting inevitably regresses back to their normal levels.
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