Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin reacts to a foul call during the first half in Game 4 of an NBA basketball playoffs Western Conference semifinal against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Clippers came up short Sunday night. They could not get a shot off with 1.7 seconds remaining and lost 102-99.
The first quarter was a series of runs. After a tight start, the Clippers went on a 7-0 run to take a 9-4 lead. After a Popovich time out, San Antonio responded with a 14-0 run, relying heavily on their ability to penetrate and get into the paint.
LAC came right back with a 10-2 run. DeAndre Jordan’s two fouls and two points did little to help his team’s cause as the quarter closed at 26-21 with San Antonio on top.
After Blake Griffin’s block led to Mo Williams going coast to coast for the 3-point play to start the second, the Clippers’ energy level should have risen to meet that of the crowd.
This was not so, and with 9 minutes left in the half, the Spurs were up by ten. San Antonio’s bench and passing helped them to sustain the 10-point lead for much of the quarter until the Clippers went on a 7-0 run.
Included in the run was a Griffin 3-point play and a little Lob City action with Paul feeding Jordan with 2:30 to go in the half.
Ten seconds later, Griffin headed to the locker room for medical attention after his tooth went through his lip following a shoulder to the mouth.
The Clippers soon had a reason not to worry when Paul drained a huge three with under 40 seconds in the half, bringing Los Angeles within three. Leonard missed the would-be answer, and the first half concluded with the Spurs leading 51-47.
Parker led all scorers in the half with 9, and the Spurs shot almost 54% from the field. Paul had a well-rounded half with 7 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals while the Clippers shot 45% from the floor.
Griffin came back from the locker room with 4 stitches in his lip and a chip on his shoulder. Paul hit another clutch three to tie it up less than a minute into the third quarter, lighting both the crowd and his team on fire.
Griffin took over from there, completing a 3-point play to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter. By 8:30, the Clippers extended that lead to four.
It became a back and forth battle when Daniel Green hit a wide open 3 with just over 7:30 left in the quarter.
The intensity and emotion increased and three technical were issued in the third to Paul and Caron Butler of the Clippers and Kawai Leonard of the Spurs.
Griffin gave his team a 3-point lead after an authoritative dunk with just over 7 minutes remaining. Tim Duncan was left wide open and drained a shot to retake the lead a minute later. Griffin once again completed a 3-point play to put the Clippers back on top.
Eric Bledsoe’s put back during the final seconds gave the Clippers a 75-74 lead going into the final quarter.
Griffin and Paul both had an incredible third quarter. Griffin led all scorers with 19 and Paul reached a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists.
The Clippers stole Tony Parker’s trademark teardrop and used it to extend their lead to four. Gary Neal hit the first of two 3-pointers with under 9 minutes remaining to keep it close.
Eric Bledsoe found his groove by draining a three with 6:30 left in the game and scoring on LA’s next possession to give the Clippers a 6-point lead.
Neal hit his second 3-pointer to cut it back down to three. With 4:30 remaining, Reggie Evans missed both free throws, allowing Green to tie it back up with 4:15 to play.
With three minutes remaining, there had been 9 ties and 11 lead changes.
Chris Paul hit a circus shot off the top of the backboard leading to a 3-point play and a Clipper lead. Staples Center erupted and both teams’ sense of urgency was palpable. Tony Parker answered with 4 straight points to give San Antonio a 3-point lead with under 2 minutes.
Paul committed the Clippers’ first turnover of the second half and it could not have come at a worse time. His ill-advised pass gave the Spurs a 2-point lead with 10.8 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing Clippers possession, Paul tried to draw a foul instead of taking a good shot. Parker hit one of the two free throws after being fouled, leaving the door open for Los Angeles.
Paul led all scorers with 23 points, but his double-double combined with Griffin’s 21 points were not enough to beat the Spurs, led by Duncan’s 21 points and 9 rebounds.