“The Run” – Eric Bledsoe and the Clippers complete epic comeback

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In order to fully understand just how amazing the Clippers comeback was last night (they were down 24 points with 8:00 to go) the guys over at the Clippers Blog have put together this great breakdown of “The Run”.

From the Clippers Blog…

The Run

Chris Paul started the fourth quarter on the bench, but he had no interest in staying there. He’s delusional, like most pro athletes sort of have to be, and he wants back in the game. Del Negro, to his credit, throws him in there.

With Paul back in, O.J. Mayo bangs another three to extend the Grizzlies lead to 24. Lawler’s Law beckons with 9 minutes left to play. Vinny Del Negro considers pulling his starters and waving the white flag. Caron Butler, the only player who did anything in the first quarter, has already broken his hand. Chris Paul has an iffy groin. No one would argue with the decision to regroup.

But hey! Reggie Evans got a bucket and a foul, and his free throw just slightly nicked the rim and allowed an opportunistic Blake Griffin to slam home the follow. 20-point game, under 8 to play. Zach Randolph and Reggie Evans do a little sumo wrestling in the post, with Zach literally belly bumping Reggie to free up space. Reggie doesn’t move. Z-Bo attempts to go around, but dribbles it off his foot like it was 2008. Chris Paul splits a pick-and-roll on the other end and flies down the middle of the paint for an easy layup. 18.

Eric Bledsoe, as he tends to do, comes out of the pack with an offensive rebound and spots up for an easy baseline jumper with no one near him. 16. Rudy Gay misses a pullup, and Evans gobbles it up. On the other end, Bledsoe cuts to the opposite corner while all eyes are on Paul, and sneaks over to the same corner he just nailed a jumper from. This time, it’s a bingo from 3. 13.

Panic starts to set in a bit with the Grizzlies crowd. Conley wisely gets to the rim, draws the foul on an attempted charge by Bledsoe, and hits one of two. 14.

Here’s where Blake Griffin enters the picture. On the block alone with Marreese Speights, Griffin pulls off the prettiest post move of his career – a fake spin, step back, gorgeous up and under that leaves Speights and Gay grasping for air. 12.

The Clippers are now within striking distance, and this possession shows why. The Clippers finally start communicating defensively and play smart instead of fast. The Clippers switch consecutive pick and rolls, then rematch according to size away from the ball. This is simple stuff, but the Clippers were burned in the first half on it. Conley clanks a long jumper, and Reggie Evans collects another board. Still 12.

After the teams exchange turnovers and misses thanks to some good defense on both ends, the Clippers strike next. Chris Paul comes off a hard screen by Evans and runs the baseline in a Steve Nash-like manner before finding Nick Young, who has wisely relocated from the wing to the corner for an open 3. Bingo. The lead is now down to single-digits, and there’s 3 minutes left. 9.

After Evans blows up a pick and roll with an outrageous show, O.J. Mayo gets Eric Bledsoe off his feet, but misses the pull-up jumper. The long rebound squirts out to Chris Paul, who flies up the middle of the court on the break. Nick Young glides with him along the 3-point line and receives the great pass – but not before Chris Paul can completely take out Mike Conley with a veteran flop. Splash. Young erupts on his way back court, elbowing invisible James Harden along the way. 6.

Conley gets into the lane on the other end, but here’s Blake with the help defense we all know he’s capable of. Blake contests the shot, and it’s a wild miss by Conley. Evans gets the board, and Paul is once again racing up the middle of the floor. Guess who is in the right corner again? Yup – it’s Nick Young, and the closeout can’t come quick enough. Bingo. 3.

There’s an uneasiness echoing throughout the arena for the Grizzlies next possession. It’s a haunting sound, really. Griffin strips the ball from Gasol at the high post in another huge defensive play, and Eric Bledsoe dives like a college player to save it from going out of bounds. Gasol lunges for the ball, and then for the shoestring tackle, and Griffin gets sent to the line to conquer some demons.

I’d like to tell you Griffin’s freethrows were textbook. They weren’t, but they went in. The lead is down to 1.

The Grizzlies are shook. They go to Zach Randolph against Reggie Evans, which may have been their worst matchup considering how Randolph had played and how Reggie was blowing up everything defensively. Randolph shoots an impossible fadeaway that Reggie gets a piece of, but Tony Allen flies in for an offensive rebound…before reverting to Boston Celtics Tony Allen by missing the layup. Bledsoe comes up with it and races into the frontcourt. Bullet dodged. Memphis still up 1.

Chris Paul/Reggie Evans crunch time pick and roll? Sure, why the hell not. The best part about this play is how Chris Paul directs Reggie to exactly where he wants him to go. He waves off the first pick, but not in the way that jerk at your local pickup game does – he redirects Reggie to the other side of the floor, then calls for him to set the screen to his left. Paul subsequently abuses Tony Allen with an in and out dribble, gets Gasol to commit, and leaves his feet for a jumper. When Gasol leaps out, Paul finds a wide-open Reggie (!) for the layup at the rim (!!!) and the lead (not enough exclamation points in the world). Incredible. Clips up 1.

Rudy Gay gets Chris Paul on a switch on the other end, and gets the ball in the post. Del Negro wants the double – he nearly does it himself he’s so far out on the court — but it never it comes. Gay simply turns and elevates from 15, and the shot is good. 27 seconds left, Grizz up 1, and the momentum temporarily back on their side.

We all know what was coming next: Paul and Allen squared off in isolation. Paul gets Allen to reach in, sending him to the line. Both free throws go down without touching the rim. Clippers back up 1. Like the comeback itself, the Clippers would be forced to win with defense more than anything else.

And then it happened. Rudy Gay misses, and the Clippers complete one of the most historic comebacks ever.

I just can’t help but be reminded of “The Mardi Gras Miracle”, when Kentucky came back from a 31 point halftime deficit and completed the largest second half comeback in NCAA history.

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