The LA Clippers pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history on Monday, rallying from 31 points down midway through the third quarter to shock the Golden State Warriors in Game 2, 135-131.
Those are the raw facts, and they speak for themselves. Let it sink in: Greatest comeback in NBA playoff history.
And yet, those details don’t nearly encapsulate the sheer magnitude of what took place at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, where the two-time defending champions were well on their way to taking a commanding 2-0 lead before the bizarre inconsistencies that have plagued them all season reared their ugly heads once again, at the worst possible time.
“We got exactly what we deserved,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
And so did the Clippers, who fought back from 28 and 25 points down to win games during the regular season.
“This is who we’ve been all season,” Clippers sixth man Lou Williams said.
Trailing by 31 with 19:31 remaining, they proceeded to outscore the Warriors 72-37 the rest of the way. (Some perspective: That’s only two fewer points than the Indiana Pacers scored during the entirety of their 84-74 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday.) While the Clippers shot 69 percent on their final 39 shots, the Warriors could do almost nothing right, misfiring on 19 of their last 27 attempts — with 14 turnovers. It was a shocking display of carelessness and ineptitude from a team that, at its best, almost seems like it’s playing a different sport.
Williams fueled the inferno with 26 of his 36 points coming in those final, crucial minutes, while fellow spark plug Montrezl Harrell scored 15 of his 25 in the fourth.
And what would a Clippers win be without some agitation from Hall-of-Fame irritant Patrick Beverley, who helped limit Kevin Durant to just eight shots in 34 minutes before fouling out. Beverley outdid himself at one point, fouling Durant twice and goading him into a pair of offensive fouls in a span of just 47 seconds.
Beverley fouled out as well, on a flop in which Draymond Green took immense delight.
But it wasn’t too long before the Clippers were the ones doing the celebrating, heading back to Staples Center for Games 3 and 4 with home-court advantage while the Warriors look to pick up the pieces without staring center DeMarcus Cousins, who could be out for an extended period with what Kerr called a “pretty significant” quad injury.
“It’s a tough feeling,” said Stephen Curry, who finished with 29 points. “We’re talking to each other, trying to figure out how we’re going to move on and use this as fuel for Game 3. But other than that, it’s just the playoffs. Everything is heightened. You have to lock into the details that separates champions from the rest.”
Big Ben delivers
Saturday’s first-round series opener between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets was one Ben Simmons would just as soon forget.
In addition to struggling through one of his least productive outings of the season (nine points, seven rebounds, three assists), the Sixers All-Star compounded his no-show by lashing out at the Philadelphia faithful for their, shall we say, less-than-enthusiastic reaction as Game 1 slipped away.
(Translation: They followed a time-honored civic tradition and booed the home team for playing poorly.)
Simmons walked that criticism back, then took matters into his own hands in Game 2 with his second career playoff triple-double as the 76ers unleashed a record-setting rout on the Nets to even the series at 1-1.
The Sixers shattered franchise playoff marks that had stood for 49 and 52 years, respectively, with 51 points in the third quarter and 145 points overall. Their 51 points tied the Lakers’ 57-year-old record for the most points ever scored in a playoff quarter, and marked only the third time an NBA team has reached the 50-point threshold in a period.
On the individual level, Simmons racked up 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists to match Wilt Chamberlain (of course) and Charles Barkley as the lone players in team annals with multiple postseason triple-doubles.
Despite the blowout final, the first half was very much a contest as the Sixers took a slim one-point lead into the break. They could largely thank Simmons for that as he either scored or assisted on 13 of their first 26 field goals.
He accounted for six more buckets in that blistering third, and the rout was on. At one point during the surge, Simmons delighted the same fans who were expressing their disgust just two days prior by cupping his ear to the crowd like Sixers great Allen Iverson — who, along with Dikembe Mutombo, was in attendance and enjoying the action courtside.
Combined with a handful of other strong performances, including 23 points and 10 rebounds from fellow All-Star Joel Embiid, not even an off night from Jimmy Butler (seven points in 30 minutes) could slow the Sixers machine, or the man who drove it.
“I was thinking about the boos from last game,” Simmons said of his Iverson tribute. “I’ve got a lot of love for this city. I was just showing that. The hustle I try to give every game is not only for my teammates and my family, but for the city.”
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