LOS ANGELES – The ball bounced on the rim, looked like it might fall through, then fell off.
Chris Paul grimaced as the clock ticked to zero. His chance to win the game was lost; the game was going to overtime.
Once there, he sealed the victory with his defense.
“When we came to that last timeout with 20 seconds left,” Blake Griffin said, “you could kind of see it in our guys’ eyes, that we weren’t going to let them score.”
With the Clippers nursing a one-point lead with 10 seconds remaining, Paul hounded Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker into throwing the ball away. DeAndre Jordan grabbed the ball and passed ahead to Paul who drove to the basket and…
Jordan followed it up with a dunk and the Clippers escaped with a 124-121 win against the Hornets, their first in three games since the All-Star break.
Walked protested that he had been fouled, and was about to stumble back over mid-court before tossing the ball away.
“We came up with it,” said Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson, who addressed the media because Doc Rivers felt ill after the game. “It was a big defensive effort down the stretch.”
It had been a disjointed and frustrating night for the Clippers, with whom no lead was safe. A 17-point advantage in the third quarter was quickly erased. A five-point lead in the last minute of regulation was short-lived.
A loss would have negated some jaw-dropping individual performances from the Clippers, who have had rare occasion this season when each member of their “big three” delivered on the same night.
Blake Griffin scored a season-high 43 points, continuing his run of strong play since returning from injury late in January.
“It’s a cliché,” J.J. Redick said, “but he has played like he’s on a mission. I don’t know what mission that is but he’s been dominant. This is as good as I’ve seen him play.”
Added Paul: “He’s just super-duper aggressive, which we like.”
Paul overcame a…