LOS ANGELES — Lou Williams shouldered the load of the Los Angeles Clippers season in the final minutes to rally them to a 113-110 win over the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night to keep their playoff hopes alive in a must-win game at Staples Center.
Williams sank a 15-foot jumper from the right wing to tie the game with just less than two minutes left, which brought the arena to a roar. One minute later, his shot from the left wing gave his team a one-point lead. Patty Mills, without the use of a timeout went down the other end and calmly nailed a 3-pointer to put the Spurs back up by two.
Williams caught the inbound, drew a slew of defenders towards him and found Austin Rivers wide open on the right wing, and then proceeded to make the shot that put the Clippers up for good.
“Our best scorer, Lou, made a game-winning pass and there are so many lessons there,” said Doc Rivers. “So many guys will shoot it anyways because they think they have to and Lou saw the open guy, hit Austin, makes the shot. That’s complete trust, and that’s how you win in basketball.”
Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 31 points and added nine rebounds, helping the Clippers stay afloat for most of the game.
“I just thought from the beginning of the game, I was aggressive,” said Harris. “We knew we were playing against a good defensive team but we had to keep them moving all night.”
Williams scored 22 points off the bench. Rivers scored 18 and handed out five assists. Montrezl Harrell scored 16 off the bench with eight rebounds.
The Spurs entered the contest fourth in the Western Conference playoff standings and trying to hold off a host of teams in the playoff race to secure home-court advantage in the first round. They are now tied with the Utah Jazz but dropped to fifth place by virtue of a tiebreaker.
The Clippers can help the Spurs out as they travel for a game against the Jazz. The Clippers on the outside looking in, as they sit two games back from eighth place in the loss column with four games left.
The Clippers’ playoff chances are on life support. The Spurs came to Staples Center with intentions of splashing cold water on those dreams. For most of the game, the Clippers were in the midst of a nightmare. LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 13 points in the first quarter, made a jump shot to record the first points of the game for San Antonio. Austin Rivers followed with a floater to tie it at two apiece.
A Danny Green dunk then gave the visitors control of the scoreboard and they never relinquished it for the rest of the first half. The Spurs jumped on the Clippers early as they went on a run that saw them score 13 points and hold the Clippers scoreless in a five-minute stretch. Moving the basketball and scoring seemed effortless for San Antonio because they got mostly anything they wanted and ended the first quarter with a 31-17 lead.
The Clippers were looking lethargic and appeared to be mailing in the season as the deficit grew to 19 points, midway through the second quarter. Williams, the Clippers’ sixth-man extraordinaire, stroked a 3-pointer from deep followed by a Tobias Harris pull-up jumper on the break and the Clippers were off on a 13-point run of their own to make a game of it. Los Angeles trailed by only seven points, 56-49, at halftime after their poor start.
Good vibes were built for the Clippers in the third quarter. After going down ten points early in the period, they tightened things up on defense and made life difficult for the Spurs. They went on a 13-2 run to take a brief lead at 64-63. San Antonio bounced back to close the quarter strong to lead 83-72 at the end of three.
“We’ve been here before,” said Harris regarding trailing going into the fourth quarter. “We did a great job of staying focused and worrying about the next play, worrying about what was at hand and obviously get the stops that we needed.”
Williams drove the lane and was fouled while making a circus shot. And one. The game was tied at 91with six minutes remaining on the clock in Staples Center. This set the set the stage for the late-game heroics. Aldridge scored a game high 35 points to lead the Spurs.