With the start of the 2017 NBA playoffs just a couple of days away, let’s take a look back at the ten most memorable playoff victories in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers.
By Mick Minas
10. Game 1 vs. Memphis, First Round 2012
The first playoff contest of the Blake/CP3-era was played in Memphis and it was certainly one to remember. Over the game’s final eight minutes, the Clippers went on a 28-3 run, thus transforming a 95-71 deficit into a 99-98 victory. The hero for the road team was Nick Young, who buried three consecutive three-pointers in the closing stages of the game and led all scorers with 19 points.
9. Game 5 vs. Denver, First Round 2006
This 101-83 result was especially significant as it secured a 4-1 series victory for the Clippers, the first time that the franchise had won a playoff series since the mid-1970s (when they were known as the Buffalo Braves). Shaun Livingston set a new franchise playoff record with 14 assists, while defensive specialist Quinton Ross harassed and harangued Carmelo Anthony into missing 16 of his 24 field goal attempts.
8. Game 1 vs. Houston, Second Round 2015
The Clippers began the second round of the 2015 playoffs on the road in Houston without the services of Chris Paul, who was sidelined with an injured hamstring. When they fell behind by 13 points midway through the second quarter, it appeared to be a forgone conclusion that the Rockets were about to draw first blood. However, the Clippers caught fire in the second half, making 11 three-pointers and pulling away for an unlikely 117-101 victory. Blake Griffin was the star for the visitors, finishing with 26 points, 14 rebounds and a new career-high of 13 assists.
7. Game 2 vs. Houston, First Round 1993
Across the first 27 years that the Clippers were based in Southern California, they won a grand total of just one playoff game on the road. That victory came on May 1st, 1993, against a Houston Rockets team which was a year away from being crowned NBA champions. The Clippers aggressively trapped and doubled-teamed Hakeem Olajuwon at every opportunity and this strategy proved to be a huge success, with Houston converting less than 32% of their field goal attempts. On the offensive end, the Clippers were led by Ron Harper, who scored 29 points despite playing with a knee injury.
6. Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City, Second Round 2014
Six days after Donald Sterling received a life ban from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, a clearly fatigued Clippers team travelled to Oklahoma City to take on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. This game was basically decided in the first quarter, when Chris Paul scored 17 points in a six minute stretch, helping to transform a six point deficit into a 14 point lead. From here, the Clippers cruised to a 122-105 victory. Paul finished with 32 points on 12 of 14 shooting, including 8 of 9 from three-point range.
5. Game 6 vs. Phoenix, First Round 2006
This 118-102 victory was a tribute to the ’06 Clippers’ ability to rebound from the heart-breaking, double overtime defeat they suffered in Game 5, played just two nights earlier. Facing a 2-3 deficit, the Clippers returned home to Staples knowing that they needed to re-group if they were going to force a Game 7 back in Phoenix.
In the lead-up to the game, Mike Dunleavy removed Corey Maggette from the starting line-up and replaced him with Quinton Ross. And while most people believed that defensive considerations were the primary motivation behind this shift, with Ross expected to guard league MVP Steve Nash, Ross also produced the best offensive performance of his career. Ross used his height advantage over Nash to great effect, scoring 16 first half points while shooting 80% from the field. And Maggette’s output certainly didn’t suffer as a result of being sent to the bench, as he scored 25 points from just eight field goal attempts.
4. Game 7 vs. Memphis, First Round 2012
One thing was clear as the Clippers headed into Game 7 against the Grizzlies in 2012- a loss would make it extremely unlikely that Vinny Del Negro would return to coach the Clippers for the following season. And by three-quarter time, Del Negro’s chances of keeping his job seemed to be rapidly diminishing. The Clippers were trailing on the scoreboard and their starting five of Chris Paul, Randy Foye, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were all producing sub-par individual performances. Faced with a career-altering moment, VDN made an extremely bold move by sitting his starters and instead going with a line-up of Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans.
As the fourth quarter got underway, the Clipper reserves immediately began building an unlikely lead. A corner three from Young, a kamikaze coast-to-coast drive by Bledsoe and a two-handed dunk from Martin all helped the visitors to build a double digit lead and this proved to be enough of a cushion to hold on for an unlikely 82-72 victory, allowing the Clippers to progress to the second round for just the second time in their 34 year history and helping VDN keep his job.
3. Game 4 vs. Utah, First Round 1992
This Clippers home game was actually played at the Anaheim Convention Center, due to the rioting that swept through Los Angeles after the verdict in the Rodney King case was announced. This game was originally scheduled for a Thursday evening but was delayed by three days, as the Clippers and the NBA frantically worked behind the scenes to find a suitable venue.
The game itself was close throughout and when the Jazz took the lead inside of the final two minutes, it appeared that the Clippers season was about to come to an end. However, the Clippers played with poise down the stretch and outscored their more seasoned rivals by a margin of 11-2, securing a 115-107 victory and sending the series back to Salt Lake City for a decisive Game 5.
2. Game 7 vs. Golden State, First Round 2014
The final four games of this series were overshadowed by the Donald Sterling/V.Stiviano saga, which is a shame, as it remains one of the most entertaining playoff match-ups from the past few seasons. The Warriors dominated the first half of Game 7, converting over 69% of their three-point attempts and never once allowing the Clippers to take the lead. However, the Clippers stormed back into contention during a wild second half in which they scored a total of 70 points.
In the final minutes, the hero for the Clippers was DeAndre Jordan, a player who barely got on the court in the fourth quarter of close games under the coaching of Vinny Del Negro. Jordan had two dunks, a tip-in and blocked a lay-up attempt of Steph Curry in the game’s final stages, helping an exhausted Clippers team to stumble over the line with a 126-121 victory.
1. Game 7 vs. San Antonio, First Round 2015
This series was a classic and Game 7 was a fitting final act, featuring more twists and turns than a Six Flags rollercoaster. In the first quarter, Chris Paul injured his left hamstring while dribbling up the court, forcing him to retreat to the locker room. The second period featured a total of 11 lead changes and was also notable for the return of CP3, although it was immediately clear that his strained hamstring was going to have an adverse impact on his lateral movement and explosiveness. The third quarter saw Paul nail a trio of three-pointers, including a 37 foot bank shot in the waning seconds of the period that gave the Clippers a 79-78 lead. All of this action set the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter and in the end, it came down to the final 30 seconds of action.
With the game tied at 107, Paul calmly converted two free throws to give the Clippers a two point lead. On the next play, Tim Duncan drew a foul and tied the game up with two free throws of his own. The ball now went back to the Clippers with less than nine seconds to play. This time Paul, who had barely ventured into the key since hurting his hamstring, drove hard down the right side of the lane and launched an extremely difficult runner that sailed less than an inch above Duncan’s fingertips and dropped into the bottom of the net, handing the Clippers a 111-109 victory.
You can read more about the playoff successes and failures of the Clippers in "THE CURSE: The Colorful & Chaotic History of the LA Clippers" by visiting Amazon or clicking here.
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