Now they’re just being silly.
After coming back to win games despite deficits of 24 and 25 points already this season – this month, in fact – the Clippers spotted the host Washington Wizards 35 points on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena in Washington.
And they won. Of course they did?
“I knew it the whole time,” said Jay Scrubb, the second-year two-way player who was an unlikely but certain contributor to Tuesday’s historic rally. “I was just telling these guys … ‘We been in this situation plenty of times, we know what to do.’ “
Fall behind any further and it would be an NBA record. For Tuesday, the Clippers settled for a franchise record with their 116-115 victory.
The 35-point turnaround equals the second-largest comeback win in the play-by-play era (since 1996-97). But the Clippers alone can claim another piece of tasty trivia: They’re the first team in the past 25 seasons to have three comeback victories in a single season when trailing by at least 24 points – and they packed all of those into 15 days.
Including postseason games, this was the NBA-best seventh comeback from deficits of at least 24 points for a Clippers team.
Moreover, Tuesday’s improbable thriller – which completed without injured All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as well as veteran leader Marcus Morris Sr., and spurred entirely by role players and reserves, including a pair of guys on two-way contracts – makes these Clippers the second NBA team in more than 16,240 games to win despite trailing by seven or more points with fewer than 20 seconds remaining in regulation, according to ESPN Stats & Info. They’re the the first to do it in 20 seasons.
The silliest of them all: Luke Kennard, who scored the final seven points in the final nine seconds to secure the win.
The basketball lefty sank a 32-foot bomb out of a timeout that made it 115-112 with nine seconds left and then, following a five-second call on the Wizards’ ensuing inbounds attempt, he sank another 3-pointer running to his right while absorbing a foul from Bradley Beal with 1.9 ticks remaining. He then made the free throw for the Clippers’ first lead of the night – and the victory.
Dumbfounded, Kennard opened his postgame presser by asking: “Why do we keep doing that to ourselves?”
“I don’t know,” he said, unable to answer his own question. “I don’t want to do it anymore, though!”
In just his fourth game back after missing more than two weeks with COVID-19, Kennard’s late-game explosion capped a determined 25-point outpouring in which he shot 8 for 13 and 5 for 8 from 3-point range and had eight rebounds and six assists – providing the perfect complement to Amir Coffey’s latest career-effort: 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting.
They, together with Scrubb (eight points and huge charge taken to give back the ball to the Clippers after they closed the gap to four points with with 3:03 to go), Terance Mann, Isaiah Hartenstein and Justise Winslow mounted the latest monumental comeback, all the way back from a 66-31 deficit with 1:20 left in the first half.
Until that point, the Clippers were listless and really pretty wretched: They missed their first 10 shots before Coffey’s floater went through with 5:32 to go in the first quarter, the Wizards’ lead already 18-4.
And they trailed 66-36 at intermission, the third-highest total for an opponent and the third-fewest scored by the Clippers in first-half play this season.
In other words, as Reggie Jackson told his teammates before watching them do it from the bench: Perfect position!
“Yeah, he said that a couple times which is crazy to say down (30),” Coffey said. “It’s a crazy statement, but, you know, he believed it. We all did.”
And from the point they trained by 35, an announced crowd of 13,544 witnessed the Clippers outscore their hosts, 85-49.
Mann and Hartenstein each had 16 points for the Clippers, who improved to 24-25 and 7-10 since losing seven-time All-Star guard Paul George to a right elbow injury last month.
Including postseason games, it was the NBA-best seventh comeback from deficits of at least 24 points for the Clippers.
Montrezl Harrell – who was a major part of the Clippers’ 31-point comeback victory over Golden State in the 2019 Western Conference first-round playoffs – missed two free throws with 2:19 left Tuesday before he chased down Coffey to block a layup that would have cut the lead to one point.
Instead, Beal (who led seven Wizards in double figures with 25 points) sank a 3-pointer and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got free for a dunk that gave the Wizards (23-25) a bit of breathing room, 113-105, with 36.8 seconds left.
Another team might’ve finally waved the white flag.
But the Clippers kept defending, kept coming and after Mann made two free throws and Harrell made just one of two, Coffey threw down a dunk. Then Kyle Kuzma missed one of his two foul shots (Washington was 8 for 13 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter) to make it 115-112 with nine seconds left.
That was enough time for Kennard.
“It just speaks to the character of our team,” Lue said. “We’re always gonna fight and compete … the thing that I do understand is we’re going to play hard, you know, we’re going to scrap, we’re going to compete.”