Thursday, January 16
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers had every reason to quit down 17 points with 4 ½ minutes to go. They had already blown a double-digit lead, fans were hitting the exits, and a long seven-game road trip waited at the end.
But in their huddle, Doc Rivers and the other coaches told the players to keep believing.
They did, and pulled out a wild 129-127 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
J.J. Redick scored a career-high 33 points, Matt Barnes added 25, Blake Griffin had 23 and Jamal Crawford scored 16, including a pair of free throws that gave the Clippers the lead with 11 seconds to go. They improved to 18-3 at home with their fourth straight win.
"We locked in," Griffin said. "We made the plays down the stretch, they tightened up and got a little too comfortable."
Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and Samuel Dalembert added a season-high 20 for the Mavs, whose three-game winning streak ended when they couldn't hold a 123-106 lead. Jose Calderon hit four 3-pointers on his way to 16 points.
"There's no way we should lose this game," Nowitzki said. "We've got to do a better job of protecting a lead. We made some bad decisions and gave up some 3s."
Redick's seventh 3-pointer with 34 seconds to go had the Clippers trailing 127-126. Nowitzki's step-back jumper hit the rim.
"We had J.J. guarding Dirk on one play and it worked," Rivers said. "I can't explain that game."
After Crawford's two free throws put the Clippers ahead 128-127, Calderon missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds to go, and DeAndre Jordan got fouled. After his first free throw hit the right side of the backboard, he made the second for a 129-127 lead.
DeJuan Blair inbounded the ball but his pass was intercepted by Jordan to end the heated and stunning finish.
"It was like a playoff game the last three or four minutes. Everybody was mouthing back and forth and getting techs, and it became a brawl out there," Shawn Marion said. "But if you let that take away from what your main focus is — executing at both ends of the floor — then it's going to take you out of your game."
Griffin uttered expletives at Dalembert after they scrapped for a rebound near the baseline late in the game. One of the referees put both his arms around Griffin's waist and backed him away. Nowitzki was waiting with an earful as Griffin ended up near him.
"I was more upset about some of the things that were said than the situation," Griffin said.
Dalembert was called for a technical. Griffin made the free throw and the Clippers retained possession. Crawford drove the basket and scored to pull them to 125-118.
"It was a difficult and a physical game," Dalembert said. "Some calls were suspicious, and it was just one of those games. So many things happened in those seven minutes. We have to keep some of their guys under control."
Redick said Dalembert stepped on his head and he ended up with a cut in his ear.
"Any time a 270-pound man steps on your head it takes a little while to get it back," he said.
Down 127-118, Barnes hit a 3-pointer and Nowitzki fouled Crawford on a 3-point attempt. Crawford made two of three free throws, pulling the Clippers to 127-123 with 1:10 to play.
Crawford struggled for most of the game, and in the final 6 minutes the coaches were debating whether to take him out.
"He was off-balance, he was going too fast and turning the ball over, yet you keep him in because he has ability to score," Rivers said. "He can miss 20 in a row. He just needs to make one and he thinks he's hot."
Crawford credited Rivers' patience with him this season for making a difference.
"Hopefully I make him look good in the end for still believing in me," he said.
Earlier in the fourth, Vince Carter was hit with a technical, one of four in the game for the Mavs. Griffin picked up one in the third.
The Mavs outscored the Clippers 60-40 in the paint, and outrebounded them 47-38, with both teams shooting at least 50 percent.
"That's awful on our part," Rivers said.
Dallas opened the fourth with consecutive 3-pointers by Monta Ellis and Calderon. They keyed a 25-6 run that gave the Mavs a 123-106 lead. The Mavs borrowed a page from the Clippers' high-flying playbook, with Brandan Wright dunking off Carter's alley-oop pass against the Clippers' hapless defense.
Notes: Rivers said the team anticipates signing free agent F Hedo Turkoglu. Rivers expects Turkoglu to join the team for the start of its seven-day, 11-city trip that begins Friday in New York. Turkoglu was cut by Orlando earlier this month. He played just 11 games last season because of injuries and a 20-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs. ... Clippers F Reggie Bullock returned after hurting his left ankle on Dec. 7 at Cleveland. ... Mavs G Devin Harris, who had left foot surgery, isn't expected to play this trip. ... The Clippers' Grammy trip comes a month earlier than usual since the music awards held at Staples Center were moved up to avoid conflicting with the Olympics.