VIDEO: Blake’s bouncing winner
In the history of lucky basketball bounces, none can touch Don Nelson‘s late shot in Game 7 of the 1969 Finals, helping the Celtics secure their 11th title. The ball hit back rim, went straight up and then dropped through the basket and into the hearts of the Lakers.
That happened at the Forum, which is now closed. But roughly 25 minutes from that site (or 30, depending on L.A. freeway traffic), Blake Griffin had a similar brush with lucky fate when he put the final touch on a 121-120 overtime Clippers win over the Suns in what could be the No. 1 thriller of the NBA season thus far.
The contest was what you’d expect from a pair of high-scoring teams that love to play freestyle, free-wheeling basketball. The guard-heavy Suns thrive in the open floor and the Clippers, blessed with point guard Chris Paul, favor the fast break as well. The contest was back-and-forth all night, and five extra minutes were tacked on after regulation. As a fan at Staples Center, could you ask for anything more?
Well, yes. A Clippers victory. Which was in doubt until Griffin took an inbounds pass from Paul with the Clippers down a pair and the clock ticking.
But we’ll get to the winning sequence in a minute. First, about Griffin. He had a monster night with 45 points, two shy of his career high. If these teams meet in the playoffs, the Suns might want to watch video of this game (minus the last few seconds) and figure how to keep Griffin from getting to the line (he made 15 of 17 free throws) and how to keep a body on him.
OK, on to the details.
After taking the inbounds pass from Paul, Griffin faked a pass back to Paul, then faced the basket, took a step-back and let it fly from the right elbow beyond the arc. The ball bounced off the rim, then the top of the glass, then fell in. He had to do all of that in 2.6 seconds, which he managed to pull off without a hitch. But not without a few bounces. Hey, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Blake was only in position to take that shot partly because Jamal Crawford was ejected for the first time in his career in the fourth quarter after arguing a foul call. Normally, Griffin would not get the ball to launch a 3-pointer; he’d attempted only nine all season prior to the shot. Also, the game went into overtime because Paul had his game-winning attempt blocked by Eric Bledsoe (27 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds) at the fourth-quarter buzzer. Also, the Clippers had the ball because the Suns committed a shot-clock violation. Finally, with a foul to give, the Suns grabbed Griffin just before his game-winner. But instead of shooting while getting fouled, Griffin passed off. He could’ve put himself at the free-throw line with a chance to tie instead of the Clippers being forced to inbound the ball. But it turned out okay for him.
The Clippers stumbled out of the gate to start the season, drawing the ire of coach Doc Rivers and perhaps having owner Steve Ballmer wonder what in the heck he was getting for his $2 billion. But all is well now. The Clippers have won eight straight and are clearly on the rise. Teams in the West have no choice but to see the vortex from L.A. heading their way (hint: It’s not the Lakers). It was the second straight loss for the Suns, whose only real issue is they don’t play in the East.
After the swish, er bounce, Griffin took off sprinting down the floor, followed quickly by Paul. As you might also might have expected, Staples was in bedlam. Speaking of Staples, Rivers said he wants the building to be a home-court advantage like it has been (or rather, was) for the Lakers. If the Clippers intend on playing like this, Rivers won’t have any reason to worry about the crowd or the noise level.
Look, we realize Griffin got a little lucky. OK, a lot lucky. Still, the shot was the cherry on top of a tremendous performance for him, so we give it three Horrys.