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Never Say Never: Clippers Stun Warriors With Record Playoff Comeback

Los Angeles Clippers

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

You know, we really wouldn’t have blamed you had you decided to tune out the last 20 minutes of the Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors playoff game on Monday night. It made all the sense in the world. The dog needs to be walked in the morning. People have to work. Kids have to get to school.

The point is, there’s not much historical precedent for eight seeds to beat one seeds in the postseason. The NBA is not about that normally. Good teams might take occasional nights off during the regular season to rest their egos, but playoff time is money time and the focus is usually razor sharp.

So when the Clippers fell behind by 31 points with 19:31 to play in the second half, to a team with Stephen Curry,  Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, you had to think it would be OK to catch up on a little sleep, at least on the East Coast.

Hey, ESPN’s Stat Cast listed the Clippers chance of winning the game at 0.01 percent, the same shot the Sacramento Kings had of signing Lebron James.

It wasn’t going to happen. Except it did.

“We stopped playing. … As soon as we got up 31, we shut down,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Then morning came and you realized over coffee you’d missed one of the greatest games in the history of the league.

Let’s pick it up at the end: After Curry hit a three with little less than a minute to play, giving the Warriors a 131-128 lead, Lou Williams (36 points) popped a jumper and Landry Shamet nailed a 3-pointer to put the Clippers up 133-131 with 16.5 seconds remaining.

Curry then missed a three, the Warriors fouled, Montrezl Harrell hit both of his free throws and Thompson missed one last three.

That’s right, Yogi. It ain’t over until it’s over. Series tied 1-1.

The Clips were down 23 points at halftime. They were turning the ball over and shooting 45 percent from the field. And the Warriors were gobbling it all up.

“I was honest with them I said I don’t know how,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers shared about his halftime comments. “I said we’re going to figure this out, but just hang in there with each other.”

The thing was, the Clippers had already seen this movie. You’ll recall LA’s game in Boston on Feb. 9 when they trailed the Celtics by 28 at the half.

“We walked out on the floor feeling good,”  said Shamet about Monday’s game, remembering the Clippers had rallied to win that night in Boston, 123-112.

Los Angeles Clippers

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Still, Monday’s deficit was against a team that’s won three of the last four NBA championships. The Warriors are not known for taking anything for granted. And they were home where they’d lost only one of their last 21 postseason games.

That was then. This is now:  The Clippers scored 44 points in the third quarter, 36 from Patrick Beverley and Williams who were just going off like crazy. Williams was 7-of-9 from the field. The 44 points set a franchise record for a quarter.

Los Angeles scored 72 points in the final 20 minutes. While the Clippers shot 69 percent on their final 39 shots, the Warriors were coughing up 14 turnovers. With 85 second-half points, the Clippers scored the second-most points in NBA playoff history, trailing only the Bucks’ 87 in Game 3 of the 1978 Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets.

“We got exactly what we deserved,” Kerr said. “Once you lose momentum against a really good team,” Kerr said. “It’s hard to get it back.”

The previous record playoff comeback was the Los Angeles Lakers’ resurrection from 29 points down to the Seattle Supersonics in 1989.

“(We) just don’t give in,” Rivers said. “They were beating us in every facet and we kept searching and kept searching and found (a combination) we liked. I thought it was our spirit more than anything.”

After it was over, there was nothing much Curry could say.

“It’s a tough feeling,” said 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.”