Holy s**t! Those were my first words this morning when I logged on and saw that the Clippers had beaten Memphis in this Game 7 slugfest. With nagging injuries to Paul and Griffin, I gave them no shot to emerge from this series. But I suppose the lesson to be learned here is to never underestimate the resolve of a superstar, and a team that has bought in.
And how about that James/Wade duo down in South Beach?
To the votes.
3 votes – LeBron James/Dwayne Wade. When they came together in 2010, this is how we thought it would be. The one-two punch of James and Wade just flattened Indiana in the second half, combining for 42 points and outscoring the Pacers by themselves. James had 32 points (16 in the fourth quarter) and 15 rebounds and Wade 29 points, in a dominant display of star power. They attacked with ferocity at both ends of the floor, killed them in transition and lived at the line (Wade 13-14 and James 8-10). The Pacers competed hard for three quarters and did some nice things, but the James/Wade blitzkrieg is an ominous sign for the rest of the series.
And perhaps with Chris Bosh going down it will benefit them some (in the short-term). Without Bosh on board they will have to approach each game being aggressive from the get-go, and not defer to someone else, because now, they’re it. As Wade said, “We knew when Chris went down we needed to flip a switch and become the one and two options.” I think that’s a good thing for the Heat and especially LeBron, and if I were the Pacers I’d be worried that two of the top-five players in the league will now come out blazing for the remainder of the series.
2 votes – The Clippers’ bench. Who would have thought that this rag tag bunch would be the catalyst for an improbable Game 7 win. Kenyon Martin had 11 points and 10 rebounds (+13), Nick Young 13 points (+13), Mo Williams 9 points (+15), Reggie Evans 9 rebounds (+18) and Eric Bledsoe 8 points and 3 assists (+3).
And remarkably, with Chris Paul back in the locker room getting treatment, it was these five guys who started the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, turning a one-point deficit into an 8-point lead. And from there, they grinded out the win.
Evans and Martin in particular were outstanding as they brutalised the Memphis bigs (Gasol and Randolph) and held them to a combined 28 points and 17 rebounds on 39 percent shooting. As is so often the case in playoff basketball, it was this staunch interior defense that was the key to victory. And to think, both Evans and Martin are earning peanuts (relatively) this year, when so many other guys around the league who have zero impact on a basketball game, are pulling in huge contracts. But that’s the NBA for ya.
1 vote – Chris Paul. It wasn’t his usual dominant performance – the strained hip flexor was clearly bothering him – but they don’t win this game without Chris Paul setting the tone. And typically, his stat line – 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists – does not do him justice. But his will to win shone through and his effort on both ends of the floor was priceless. The guy’s just relentless and flat out nasty. And how’s this for confidence; despite the odds (injuries to himself and Griffin, Game 7 in Memphis, the ‘Clipper curse’) he was so confident of victory that he bought plane tickets for his wife and son to San Antonio. Ok, he earns a shit load so that’s probably the equivalent of me buying a Mars bar, but it’s still ballsy.
With this victory the Clippers won just their third playoff series in 41 years, and Chris Paul is the reason why. He has single-handedly dragged this sad-sack franchise to respectability, and who knows just how far he can take them.