The Clippers’ Historic Comeback and the Magic of the NBA Playoffs
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Just a few days removed from Tiger Woods’ epic comeback at The Masters, the Los Angeles Clippers gave us another bone-chilling magical sports moment. They mounted an impossible 31-point comeback on the road against the heavily favored Golden State Warriors. LA tied the series at one game a piece.
Most fans may have already turned off their TV and went to bed when the Warriors erected a 94-63 lead with 7:24 left in the third quarter. It looked like the game was already in the bag for the Warriors. The Clippers had other ideas.
LAC came into the series as historic underdogs. SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas gave them 100-1 odds to upset the Warriors. Most, if not all, media outlets have predicted an easy sweep for the Warriors.
Five All Stars against a team of outcasts and misfits. A dynasty who’s won three of the last four NBA championships against a franchise fighting for recognition in the Hollywood.
It was a classic David and Goliath matchup.
The Warriors cruised to an easy 121-104 rout in the series opener as expected. But if there was a biggest takeaway in that losing cause for the Clippers, it was Patrick Beverly’s defiant stand against the world’s cold-blooded scorer, Kevin Durant.
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And that seminal moment in Game 1 kept the Clippers’ confidence going in Game 2 when everyone was already losing hope. For every Lou Williams’ offensive brilliance, there was also a Beverly defensive wizardry on the other end.
Beverly cut into Durant’s dribbling space. He also had a hand in Curry’s foul trouble woes that kept him glued on the bench while the Clippers started their comeback.
Just as when the Warriors needed Durant to be his old aggressive self, he caved in to Beverly’s pesky defense. Durant, the Finals MVP in the last two Warriors’ championships, inexcusably turned the ball over nine times and fouled out of the game as he agonizingly watched Beverly and Clippers steal the game away.
“We stopped playing, we kinda disconnected mid-third quarter and lost our defensive edge,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “I mean they scored 85 points in the second half. We kind of messed with the game and when you do that, you are in trouble especially in the playoffs.”
But to say the Warriors lost this one as they stopped playing the moment they had that 31-point lead is to discredit the heart and effort the Clippers poured out to earn the victory.
The Clippers stayed true to their core. They didn’t allow the Warriors’ insurmountable lead to overwhelm them. LAC head coach Doc Rivers said as such post-game.
“It’s just who we are,” said Rivers. “Every timeout, we said it over and over again, be us. Don’t change. Keep playing the way we play and you know they hung in there long enough and we found a way to win the game,”
The Clippers improbable comeback is as fantastic as Woods’ Masters win. They’re both slices of sports magic. The sort of moments even the best writers couldn’t imagine.
That LAC is in the postseason at all is no small miracle. The team traded away their top scorer Tobias Harris in a salary-dumping move at the trade deadline. The entire roster is a stand-in rebuild as the front office eyes the superstar-laden free agent class this summer.
All the same, Rivers and his team they found a way to hold their ground and stay relevant.
“We are roaches. They can’t kill us,” Rivers boasted. You just love this crew. They don’t just give in. They allow you to coach them. They allow you to sub them without drama,”
Therein lies another wrinkle in the Clippers magic. This team is so relatable.
At some point in our life, we’re like Danilo Gallinari who was looking for his niche in his career after being tossed around by a couple of employers. We’re like Montrezl Harrell who had to work his way up from the developmental league to prove himself and earn his spot in the NBA.
We’re like Lou Williams, a journeyman despite oozing with talent. We’re like rookie Landry Shamet, who was only seen as a trade piece in the Harris deal but whose confidence unshaken and sank Game 2’s dagger three-pointer.
We’re like Beverly, a blue collar worker who continuously grind it out on defense to make up for limited offensive talent. Or we could all be a Steve Ballmer, a fired up boss who genuinely wanted his unheralded team to succeed and get the spotlight they deserve as the better team in LA.
In Game 2, the Clippers kept fighting against all odds.
They made us all believe again that anything is possible when you put in your heart in your work.