The Los Angeles Clippers delivered the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history Monday, rallying from a 31-point deficit for a shocking 135-131 win over the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Lou Williams scored 36 points and Montrezl Harrell nailed a couple of clutch late free throws as the Clippers surprised even themselves to square the first round playoff series at 1-1.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he told his players at halftime, when they were down by 23 points, to not give up.
“I said ‘We are going to win this game.’ I was honest with them. I said, ‘I don’t know how. Just hang in there with each other,’” Rivers said. “This is who we are. We hung in there long enough. We found a way to win the game.”
Williams also had 11 assists, going 13-of-22 from the field and eight-of-10 from the free throw line.
Game three is Thursday in Los Angeles.
The stretch drive featured the Clippers’ consistent mid-range game against the Warriors’ inconsistent three-point shooting. But fouls and injuries also worked against the Warriors in game two of the first round series.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr described it as an epic meltdown.
“Once you lose momentum in a game, it is hard to get it back,” said Kerr. “We lost this game in the middle of the third quarter when we stopped playing. We got up by 31 and we shut down. We got exactly what we deserved.”
The Clippers topped the Los Angeles Lakers’ rally from a 29-point deficit to beat the Seattle Supersonics in 1989.
The Clippers also came back from being 27 points down in a playoff win over the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012.
“We changed a couple things offensively and defensively on the fly in the third,” Rivers said. “And it worked out for us.”
The Warriors got more bad news after the game when they learned centre DeMarcus Cousins suffered a serious injury. Cousins injured his left quad in the first quarter and is expected to have an MRI scan done on it on Tuesday.
“It is a significant quad injury,” said Kerr without going into detail. “We will get an MRI done tomorrow. He is going to be out a while. It is significant.”
Williams drained a key jump shot over Klay Thompson with 46 seconds remaining after Curry had put the Warriors ahead 131-128 on a three-pointer 12 seconds earlier.
After Klay Thompson missed a shot from beyond the arc, Clippers Landry Shamet hit a three pointer with 16 seconds left for the game winner. Harrell sank two free throws with five seconds left to cap the scoring.
‘We need everybody’
Elsewhere, Ben Simmons heard cheers instead of jeers Monday as the Philadelphia 76ers set a franchise record with 51 points in the third quarter en route to a 145-123 playoff win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Australia’s Simmons, who had criticised the Philadelphia fans’ booing in game one of the series, delivered a triple-double of 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
He joined Wilt Chamberlain and Charles Barkley as the only Sixers to get multiple triple-doubles in the postseason, and this time he left to a standing ovation from the home fans.
Philadelphia grabbed command of the contest with a 51-point third quarter, a team record for most points in a quarter.
The Sixers also set a club record for most points in a playoff game, squaring their best-of-seven opening round series 1-1.
Game three is on Thursday in New York.
Ailing Joel Embiid finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Philadelphia, who shot 56 percent from the field. Embiid was a game-time decision due to a sore left knee.
“Everybody’s got to bring it,” Embiid said. “We need everybody.”
Tobias Harris added 19 points, JJ Redick scored 17, reserve centre Boban Marjanovic had 16 and Mike Scott scored 15 for Philadelphia.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored 19 and D’Angelo Russell added 16 for the Nets, who set a team record for points allowed in a postseason game.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got 15, while Caris LeVert and Shabazz Napier scored 13 each.