Clippers beat Spurs on Chris Paul shot in Game 7

Chris Paul made a shot to help the Clippers advance in the playoffs.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Sport

By Matt Zemek

It is a sportswriter’s dream to be able to write about radiant, transcendent sports spectacles such as Game 7 of the Western Conference first-round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs.

Yet, the marvel and magnitude of what we saw on Saturday night in Los Angeles was so overwhelmingly powerful that the simplest statements adequately capture the fullness of what transpired.

Pictures tell the story of this game, too, in ways that words can’t:

That image is worth at least 1,000 words by itself. Contextually, it’s worth about 5,000 in light of the fact that Tim Duncan and Chris Paul were at their best.

Simple statements conveying powerful truths packed with historical significance and searing poignancy — these kinds of statements tell the story of a magical, unforgettable Game 7 that will stick with anyone who watched it.

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This was one of the very best NBA playoff games we’ve all had the privilege of watching. 

This was one of the best NBA Game 7s we’ve been able to take in — players almost always rose above their nerves and the pressure of the moment. Only occasionally did they fail to thrive, especially in the second half and even more particularly in the fourth quarter. If anyone on the floor failed in the final minute, it was the officials, on consecutive dubious calls, one at each end of the court.

This was, all things considered, the most impressive and special performance of Chris Paul’s career. In one bold set of strokes — all with an injured hamstring — CP3 kept raining in threes… and then he hit the two-point shot with one second left to bring the Spurs’ chances of repeating to the number zero.

There was a bit of Willis Reed in 1970 against the Lakers in Paul’s performance. There was also a lot of Isiah Thomas in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Lakers in CP3’s majestic display. Reed and Isiah delivered iconic performances that basketball fans of a certain age can instantly point to. CP3 now enters that pantheon with this performance.

The reality and the immensity of Paul’s accomplishment are dimmed only by the fact that this incredible series was, yes, a first-round encounter. Everything we saw on the court from both the Clippers and Spurs will ensure that CP3’s performance attains NBA immortality.

More simple statements conveying powerful truths:

Matt Barnes just might have played the very best game of his career. Stop for a moment and realize how amazing it is that multiple players might have enjoyed their very best individual moments as players in this one game. That’s pretty remarkable… and again, the idea that these statements are so hard to refute is what gives them their heft and impact.

So many players overcame demons in this game. Jamal Crawford — at least in this game — chased away his identity as an erratic, undependable player who will more likely sabotage a team than carry it to a special accomplishment. Danny Green shrugged off six really rough games to play the way he played in each of the past two NBA Finals series. “Big Baby” Glen Davis turned back the clock to 2010 with vital first-half minutes which enabled the Clippers to withstand Paul’s absence and Blake Griffin’s foul trouble. Manu Ginobili looked like a broken-down player at the end of the third quarter. He played his best quarter of the series in the fourth, allowing his Hall-of-Fame career to end (assuming it does; most think it will…) the right way. It was inspiring to see so many players put rough moments behind them and reach higher in a Game 7 that was always — always — played at a lofty elevation.

This game’s result — accordingly, the series’ result along with it — makes this Saturday night the greatest moment in the Los Angeles Clippers’ entire history. A franchise that has never reached the conference finals (and now has a great chance to do so against the Houston Rockets) dethroned the two-time defending Western Conference champions and the defending NBA champions in an epic series. Truly — where are you going to find a better moment for the Clippers, dating back to their history in San Diego?

Keep in mind that the Clippers are just a year removed from one of the ugliest episodes in the modern era of professional sports — L’Affaire Donald Sterling — under a coach who uprooted himself from the Boston Freakin’ Celtics for an entirely new life. These facts add to the luminous and history-busting quality of the Clippers’ achievement.

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A franchise enjoyed its greatest moment, and its best player played his greatest game ever.

The defending champions of the NBA got knocked out in the first round of the following year’s playoffs… and have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to truly regret other than the kinds of things that are inevitably a part of basketball, such as Tony Parker’s miss on a five-foot floater late in the fourth quarter, with the Spurs leading by a score of 105-102 with 2:25 left in regulation.

Multiple players banished the demons that had been hounding them — for a series in some cases, for a whole career in others.

The NBA received a game played near the zenith of absolute perfection — this, despite lots of veterans over 30 years old struggling with injuries and accumulated pains.

The result most were expecting — the Spurs, the inevitable and omnipresent Spurs, advancing — did not occur.

The full two weeks of Spurs-Clippers and the enthralling Game 7 they produced were punctuated by a shot for the ages from Chris Paul.

The simplest statements just didn’t need to be embellished in this game and this series.

They never will need that embellishment, either. The quality of basketball produced by San Antonio and the Clippers will stand the test of time.

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