In the fourth quarter, there's a great sense of foreboding about this one. It's the sort game the Clippers have lost all season. They don't lose spectacularly like, say, the New Jersey Nets [the Clips tend to win when they're ahead going into the fourth], but when the Clips find themselves down in the waning minutes of a game, they tend to fold. So when Andre Iguodala sinks a jumper from 20 feet to tie the game at 77-77 with 4:18 to go, there's a profound question as to whether the Clippers' offensive sets will descend into rigor mortis against a team that's shown some defensive teeth in recent weeks, not to mention the previous 44 minutes of basketball.
But then, something uncharacteristic happens: The Clippers score on seven of the final nine possessions in a tight game. Even better, they do it largely from inside 12 feet with post-ups and short range, high-percentage jumpers. They work their way to the line, and clear two offensive rebounds in the four minutes that result in four points.
Let's take a peek at those seven scoring possessions:
- The Clips go with Cassell, Livingston, and Mobley along with EB and Kaman. Kaman hasn't been finishing games at all for the Clips, but given TT's condition, the Sixers' biggish lineup, and a fairly competent effort all night from Chris, Dunleavy decides to stick with him.
After Smith gets whistled for a non-shooting foul, Sam has it up top against Miller, then gets an on-ball screen from EB at the arc. Elton rolls toward the basket where he's picked up by Iguodala, and Dalembert doubles Cassell. Kaman pops out to the left elbow. Joe Smith, who was on Kaman, decides to give Chris some room because Mobley - at the top of the circle - is probably the more potent threat. So Kaman, with all kinds of room to set and shoot at the elbow, does just that.
Clippers 79, Philadelphia 77 [3:45]
- After Korver lets an easy pass go through his hands, Shaun picks up the ball and starts the break. Running across the half-line, he's got Mobley on the other wing and EB trailing. The bounce pass goes to Cat, who dishes it off the Elton running down the gut of the lane.
Clippers 81, Philadelphia 77 [3:26]
- Dalembert eludes Elton down low and muscles a layup to cut the Clippers' lead to two. Shaun runs point on this trip. Sam runs a little cross-screen for Cat along the baseline, which doesn't result in much. Meanwhile, as Shaun penetrates, Chris gives EB a screen to free him up to dive. Dalembert picks up Elton immediately, so with Korver no match for his agility as he dribbles into the paint, Shaun decides that elevating for a 13-footer is the way to go. He misses...barely...and it's not a bad shot. Spinning away from Dalembert, Elton grabs the rebound, dribbles out a step or two, spins counterclockwise, and hits. Vintage Elton.
Six points in three offensive possessions.
Clippers 83, Philadelphia 79 [2:36]
- The Sixers work a wide open shot for Joe Smith out on the right wing after EB collapses into the lane on a driving Korver. Smith hits it, and Shaun brings it up, Clips leading by two. He passes it off the Sam, up top on the arc on the left wing. Sam dumps it into Elton, who's working hard against Smith. Elton converts only five field goals tonight, two of them on put-backs. Elton backs him in, but can't get much of a look yet. Finally, he spins inside, tentatively puts up a 10-footer, but misses.
- Andre Miller hits a wide open jumper after Shaun gets totally lost on the play.
Sam brings the ball up this time against Miller. He dribbles left toward the baseline, then launches a fade-away jumper over his left shoulder. Not close and Korver clears.
- In transition, Miller has Dalembert way up ahead. Miller lobs a perfect pass to him, but Dalembert muffs the layup just wretchedly. Shaun grabs it and gives it to Sam with about 1:15 left and the game tied at 83-83.
Sam swings it to Shaun, top right. Shaun knows he can take Korver anytime he wants to, and he's feeling aggressive. He drives to the basket, and when the entirety of the Sixers defense collapses on him, he zips a little pass to Kaman on the baseline. Kaman takes one dribble, but is too far underneath, so he finds a wide open Brand at the foul line. Elton, again, is tentative, leaving Iguodala enough time to close and block his little ten-footer. All of a sudden over the last week, we're back to December with Elton and that nervous double-clutch on his jumper. With the deflection, the ball catches nothing, but Shaun is underneath to catch it like a punt returner. Shaun dribbles out, spins, then - I kid you not - elevates over the 6'10" Joe Smith and sinks the jumper from 10 feet.
Clippers 85, Philadelphia 83 [:56]
- First Iguodala, then Korver misses a jumper, and Mobley gets fouled on the rebound. Non-shooting.
Shaun brings it up right side. Sam cross-screen for Mobley again along the baseline, but the Sixers execute the switch with ease [By now, Iguodala is one of the better defenders in the league]. With the offense stagnant for the moment, Mobley has to come all the way out to collect the ball from Shaun. Cat dumps it into Elton, who has been pushed way out off the high post. EB backs Dalembert in with a left handed dribble. As he reaches the lane, he spins, deftly switches to his right, then drives right past Dalmbert for a little 4-footer.
Big, big shot by Elton.
Clippers 87, Philadelphia 83 [:23]
- The Sixers won't die, as Dalembert tips in a missed Iguodala drive. The Clippers' lead is two with 15.1 to go. Doug Christie can't get the ball in because every time someone rotates to get it, Andre Iguodala is all over it. Christie is forced to call timeout. This time, Livingston get it into Sam, whom Korver immediately fouls.
Sam hits both.
Clippers 89, Philadelphia 85 [:14.4]
- Livingston - and he knows it's the wrong play the minute he does it - fouls Miller and Andre hits both. It's a two-point game and the Sixers have to foul immediately.
You can't see it on the monitor, but Ralph maintains - and both Shaun and Sam's body language confirms it - that Shaun had Sam for a "home run." Instead, Kaman gets fouled and he hits one of two.
Clippers 90, Philadelphia 87 [:5.8]
Iguodala's running 3PA is no good, though Dalembert gets to pad his stats with a tip in.
Clippers win 90-89.