“Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this…and totally redeem yourself!” -Harry Dunne, Dumb and Dumber.
I was cursing Chauncey Billups for (almost) the entire fourth quarter tonight. He checked in for Randy Foye at the 8:56 mark, and proceeded to clank a long jumper eight seconds later. About a minute after that, Billups hit a three-pointer to give the Clippers a three point lead. Uh oh, I thought. I’ve noticed that whenever Chauncey (or, as my friend Jon calls him, “Mr. Every Shot”) makes a three, he feels entitled to jack up a terrible shot on the ensuing possession. True to form, he chucked up failed three-pointers on two out of the Clippers’ next three possessions. He launched both of these wild shots with more than ten seconds remaining on the shot clock and nobody in offensive rebounding position. So much for the veteran savvy for which Billups is consistently praised.
Thanks to a combination of stifling Clipper defense, some lucky Dirk misses, and two bailout shots by Mo Williams, the Clippers held a five-point lead with 0:41 left. Despite Mo Williams’s hot hand, Chauncey took it upon himself to ice the game. He drove into traffic and attempted a no-look shovel pass to DeAndre (I think) across the key. The errant pass went directly into the quick hands of Shawn Marion, and who ignited a Dallas fast break that resulted in a Jason Terry three-pointer. Just like that, it was 88-86 with 0:36 left. You’ll never guess who attempted to come to the rescue on the next Clippers possession. It was Mr. Every Shot, with an awkward twelve footer from the right baseline that barely grazed iron. Dirk Nowitzki got his hands on the rebound, but lazily left the ball exposed, allowing DeAndre to swoop in and tie him up for a jump ball with 0:20 left. DeAndre outjumped Dirk and knocked the ball in Chauncey’s direction. There was a bit of a scuffle for the ball, but Chauncey ended up with it in his hands. He caught it in an awkward spot, trapped near the sideline by Jason Kidd and Ian Mahinmi, with Mo Williams sprawled out on the floor beneath him. Instead of calling for a timeout, Chauncey tried to muscle through the trap, and ended up dropping the ball out of bounds (in Chauncey’s defense, Kidd clearly fouled him). And just like that, thanks to an appalling series of Billups miscues, the Mavs had a chance to tie or take the lead with 0:14 remaining.
As you know by now, DeAndre Jordan played comically poor pick and roll defense and Jason Terry knocked down another three to put the Mavs up by a point with five seconds to go. For all the steps forward DeAndre has taken this year, he took about one hundred steps back with his boneheaded failure to switch onto Terry on that pick-and-roll. Any time you have a chance to leave one of the best clutch shooters of our generation wide open for a game-winning three, you have to jump on it. Anyway, Terry knocked down the three, made a complex series of gang signs, and strutted back to the Mavs bench with a victory seemingly in hand.
Enter Mr. Big Shot. With 4.2 seconds left and the Clips inbounding from the right baseline corner, the beleaguered Vinny Del Negro…wait for it…actually drew up a good play! Granted, he has called this play numerous times before; it seems to be the only play in his end-of-game arsenal. And I’m pretty sure the only reason he knows the play is that the Hawks beat the Clips with the very same play last season. Regardless, I’ll give Vinny credit where credit is due. Chauncey inbounded the ball to Blake at the elbow extended and ran a tight curl around Blake. From there, it was Blake’s read: if the defense overplayed Chauncey, Blake would drive to the bucket and attempt to score it himself. If the defense sagged off Chauncey (as Jason Kidd did), then Blake would kick it out for the three. Blake made the right read, and Chauncey totally redeemed himself after an otherwise horrendous fourth quarter.
I still can’t believe the Clippers pulled this one out. On the third game of a B2B2B, playing against a motivated Mavs team that had just lost a heartbreaker to the Lakers on national TV, I thought we would have to play a nearly perfect game to pull out a victory. Yet somehow the Clippers cobbled together a win in spite of their terrible offensive performance. It wasn’t pretty, but of course I will take it. I just hope Chris Paul gets healthy soon so I never again have to watch Chauncey direct the late-game offense.