With an epic comeback, the Clippers find themselves
This isn't about Donald Sterling or Shelly Sterling anymore. With a 16-point, fourth-quarter comeback on Sunday, the Clippers made it about them -- the coach and the players. Just like it should be.
This isn't about Donald Sterling anymore.
It isn't about Shelly Sterling, who vows to fight to keep her share of the Clippers.
Nor is it about Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who did excellent work as the representative of the players' union in all matters Sterling -- and who was sitting courtside on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center for an epic basketball event in these thrilling NBA playoffs.
On Sunday, this was about the Clippers -- not the organization, not the deposed owner, not the bureaucracy or legal red tape left in his wake.
It became about the Clippers themselves.
The players. The coaches. The team.
The Clippers of Glenn "Doc" Rivers and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and Darren Collison found themselves on Sunday. Out of the madness of a 16-point, fourth-quarter comeback, they found themselves on the victorious end of a heart-stopping 101-99 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder that evened their Western Conference semifinals series at 2.
Out of the unprecedented chaos of the past two weeks in the NBA, the Clippers discovered who they were on Sunday.
Or rather, they discovered who they are from now on.
They are a fearless, unrelenting basketball team that, like their coach and point guard, keeps scrapping and coming at you until the bitter end. They are Jamal Crawford, icily sizing up a 3-pointer that swished through and gave the Clippers their first lead of the afternoon, 97-95 with 1:23 left.
They are Griffin, who moments earlier had changed hands and directions in mid-air for a 3-point play that tied the game at 94 -- a game that the Clippers had trailed by as many as 22.
They are Collison, who made play after big play down the stretch -- including leaking out for a layup off a miss by Russell Westbrook to give the Clippers a 101-97 lead with 32 seconds left.
Of course, they are Paul -- who battled the colossal Kevin Durant on pick-and-roll switches late in the fourth and who never gives an inch, even though he doesn't have many on his 6-foot frame to spare. Paul had 23 points, 10 assists and four steals on Sunday, and that added up to more than Durant's 40 points, seven rebounds and eight turnovers because the Clippers won.
Should the Thunder have fouled with a three-second difference between the shot clock and game clock while trailing by two on the Clippers' final possession? Perhaps -- but in the end, it didn't matter. Griffin missed a driving layup with seven seconds left, giving the Thunder enough time to get a deadeye look at what would've been a game-winning 3-point attempt by Westbrook.
He missed. Serge Ibaka's putback attempt missed, and was after the buzzer, anyway.
The Clippers made this a series with as massive a turnaround as you could imagine -- from 22 down, 16 down in the fourth, to 2-2 heading back to Oklahoma City for Game 5.
The Clippers found themselves on Sunday. Rivers has been their voice through the turmoil of the past two weeks. Paul has been their soul. Now, they have found their personality and their mission. Out of the madness comes a march toward normalcy. And it has nothing to do with their banished owner or his wife or whomever the new owner might be.
It's about them -- the players and the coaches. Just like it should be.
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