Here’s Kevin Arnovitz and his take from Game Three:
LOS ANGELES — You can’t really say that the Los Angeles Clippers have a winning formula.
A formula suggests a recipe that consists of a precise measurement of elements and ingredients.
What the Clippers concoct in the closing minutes of games can more aptly be described as an exotic potion whipped up by a sorcerer. Call it a witches’ brew — the witch, of course, being Chris Paul.
“That’s how we planned it,” said Paul with a tinge of sarcasm about the Clippers’ 87-86 comeback win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The rally wasn’t as historic as the miracle in Game 1, the sequence of events certainly not as improbable, but the victory gave the Clippers a 2-1 lead in the series.
As has been customary for the Clippers this season, they trailed for most of the second half. Down 79-73 with just more than four minutes to go, the Clippers mounted a furious 13-1 run with Paul, per usual, leading the way.
“[Paul] has done it all year and his whole career,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “When the game is on the line, he is as good as there is in the game.”
Paul’s understudy, second-year guard Eric Bledsoe, got things started by summoning all his strength to muscle over the Grizzlies’ back line for a layup and-1. Bledsoe missed the free throw, but the Clippers’ sanitation worker, Reggie Evans, was there for the putback to shave the Memphis lead down to two.
Bledsoe also provided badly needed ball pressure down the stretch on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, and dished out a timely assist to Randy Foye for a 3-pointer that tied the game at 80-80 with just more than three minutes remaining.
That’s when Paul took over. In a span of 40 seconds, Paul turned down an Evans pick to find daylight for a 16-footer on the right edge of the lane. On Memphis’ next possession, Paul — caught defending Marc Gasol in a mismatch — got his hands on the ball, resulting in a Grizzlies turnover.
Then came the topper, the kind of play Clippers fans imagined when Paul and Griffin were paired at the outset of the season. Guarded by O.J. Mayo, Paul got a jump start and went left — not his preferred direction — squirted into the lane, then delivered an impossible bounce pass between Memphis’ pair of collapsing big men, Gasol and Zach Randolph. On the other side of that pass was Blake Griffin, who cut baseline from the left side.
“I just walked around until he passed it,” Griffin said to a chorus of laughter when asked to describe what transpired on the play. “I’m going to let [Paul] answer that.”
“I got into the lane, saw the two guys looking at me and I saw Blake — he made the ‘Blake Face,'” Paul said.
At that point, Paul asked his young son, Chris Jr., to show the media gathering the aforementioned Blake Face — that familiar combination of anticipation and apoplexy well-known to NBA fans the world over.
Cue the laugh track.
“Once I got into the lane, I saw him about to take off — I think he might’ve wanted the lob,” Paul said. “All I saw was the baseline. Once the ball gets into his hands that close to the rim, there’s not too much anyone can do about it.”
To read the rest of K.A.’s recap, please click here to go to ESPNLA.com: