I have a rule that goes into effect every time I’m watching basketball and the game starts getting out of hand.
It goes something like this:
I’m willing to make exceptions to who the player is. I’ll stick around for guys like Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili and JaVale McGee – you know, the greats. I’m willing to be flexible with who I throw into that grouping based on how much a certain player has entertained me lately.
But I’m never willing to see Chris Paul on the floor and say, “I’m just not feeling CP3 tonight. Let me look for Nowhere to Run or Bloodsport.”
Chris Paul just happens to take precedence over every situation and JCVD movie because he’s been my aesthetically favorite player to watch since he came into the league. I have a thing for point guards. It’s probably because I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to playing or maybe it’s just because I love watching incredible passing. Whatever it is, Chris Paul has it in oodles.
Down 27 to the Grizzlies Sunday night, I had to consult the flowchart. The game was a blowout and Chris Paul was playing. There was no way I was going to abandon this game.
Apparently in the fourth quarter, Chris Paul was begging his coach for another shot. He’s one of those psychotically competitive guys that drives people nuts and warms my heart at the same time. You can see him looking for ways to claw and scratch for any little advantage throughout the game. It’s hypocritical of me, but he’s the one guy I can watch flopping throughout a game and excuse it because I see him looking for ways to win in the process.
Give Chris Paul and a team a chance. That’s all he wanted from his coach. They had dug a hole deep in the opening game of their first round series and he wasn’t willing to take responsibility for it without getting another stab at solving the Rubix Cube that was the Memphis Grizzlies in the first 34 minutes of their first game.
With the lead cut to 21 in the fourth, he apparently pleaded with Vinny Del Negro to give him and his teammates another shot at making a run in this game – to get it back to a respectable deficit so they’d have a chance to win. The Clippers ended the game on a 28-3 run and had a 35-13 scoring advantage in the final stanza. And Chris Paul stood as the author of this victory.
You can’t put the entire credit on CP3’s résumé because it was a total team effort. Blake Griffin had eight points, made consecutive free throws at a crucial juncture, and stepped up to play pretty good defense in the fourth (he actually was quite good at it all game). Eric Bledsoe got chaotic in the backcourt, trying to force whatever action he could to go LA’s way with his seven points in the fourth. And Chris Paul handed out seven assists in the final 10 minutes of the game to take homecourt advantage in this series.
But the main two components of this run were Nick Young and Reggie Evans. To make a run like this, you need guys that will get dirty in the trenches and take a stand doing so. That was Reggie Evans. Reggie was the guy with the least amount of talent on the floor and the highest impact. He dared the other team to move him out of rebounding or defensive position. He dared them to have stronger hands than him to swipe loose balls and rebounds away. He dared them to score, like when he showed Zach Randolph at the end of the game why a plastic bag can be such a dangerous toy for children.
Reggie Evans made things ugly because Reggie Evans knows you can’t beat him that way. He wanted to see how tough Memphis really was and the answer that night was “not tough enough.” And then there was Nick Young.
Nick Young provided the scoring barrage. You need one of those in a huge comeback like this, otherwise you just can’t get over the hump. With the Clippers managing to keep it respectable for most of the second half, they kept falling short of turning that 12-point deficit into anything other than 18 or 19 points. With less than three minutes left, Young and his abrasive sense of what a shot he should take is made the run the Clippers desperately needed.
He hit three 3-pointers in exactly one minute of play to bring Los Angeles within 3. He was the run the Clippers needed. He’s the guy that had no conscious in Washington and was maligned as a chucker – and rightfully so. When Nick Young gets hot, there’s little you can do about it. He’s too quick for you to challenge his shot and he glides to open spots on the floor in a very instinctual manner. This is exactly what happened against Memphis.
Reggie Evans grabbed one of his eight fourth quarter rebounds, got it to Chris Paul and Chris Paul found Young within 10 seconds for the 3. Then Chris Paul grabbed an errant OJ Mayo jumper and found Young again, this time within five seconds. After Mike Conley missed a short jumper that would have pushed the lead back to eight, Evans grabbed the ball, found his point guard and his point guard found bristling Young for his third 3-pointer in a row.
Once the game was cut to a three-point margin in the blink of an eye, it was up to Memphis to figure out how to right the ship. Their effort seemed panicked and shell-shocked. Rudy Gay was able to give them some brief confidence, but it was sandwiched in between CP3 finding Evans for a go ahead layup (IN A PLAYOFF GAME!) and Paul earning two free throws because Tony Allen got handsy.
After Kenyon Martin stopped Rudy Gay on the final possession, the comeback had been completed. This is one of the reasons that playoff basketball is just so incredible. Stars step up for praise fit for legends or they shrink and provide us with tension and drama. Role players have a chance to make a name for themselves in the least likely of moments. No lead is safe and no victory is ever secure. Momentum is a slut and will go home with anybody at the drop of a hat, or the bottom of a Nick Young 3.
Memphis had this series locked up in the third quarter, according to many of their fans and a lot of people looking to discredit the Clippers as a real playoff team. Then Chris Paul pleaded with his coach to give them a chance to make good on a promise to play hard and win the series.
You never stop watching Chris Paul. Even Vinny Del Negro knows this.