LOS ANGELES (Sporting Alert) — Blake Griffin collected a triple-double and Chris Paul battled through a hamstring injury to knock down the game-winning bucket for the LA Clippers to beat San Antonio 111-109 in Game 7 and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals.
Griffin finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the way for Clippers, as he collected his second triple-double in this first round series.
Paul, who strained his left hamstring early, finished with 27 points, including the winning basket off a banked in shot over Tim Duncan with one second left in the game to send Staples Center to its feet.
“The training staff did what they had to do to get me back out there,” said Paul, who returned from the locker room about seven minutes after he walked down the tunnel.
The All-Star point guard, who scored 18 of his tallied points in the second half, also dished out six assists and hit 5-of-6 from three-point range in the win, as Los Angeles outscored the defending champions 15-2 on fast break points.
Matt Barnes chipped in with 17 points, in addition to swatting-away a late Spurs inbound pass, Jamal Crawford supported with 16 off the bench and J.J. Redick added 14 for the Clippers, who will face the Houston Rockets in the conference semis.
Tim Duncan paced the way for San Antonio with 27 points and 11 rebounds, while Tony Parker added 20 points, Danny Green finished with 16 and Kawhi Leonard ended with 13 points and 10 boards in the defeat.
Both clubs, not wanting to be eliminated, traded blows throughout Game 7 as Los Angeles took a 57-55 lead into the interval.
It was business as usual again for the teams after the halftime break and it took another big shot from Paul to give the Clippers the lead at the end of the third quarter.
With time expiring, the point guard jogged up the court and then fired up a distant three-point attempt that shockingly banged off the back window and went in as the Clipper took a 79-78 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Clippers trailed 99-97 in the fourth quarter, but Redick and Griffin combined for the former to hit another three pointer to send his team up 100-99 with 4:24 left.
However, the never-say-die Spurs went on a 6-2 run to regain the lead at 105-102 with 2:47 left.
In the end, though, it came down to the last seconds of the game and it was the hobbling Paul, who delivered after scoring the Clippers’ last four points of the contest to seal the win on an emotional night for the home side, which shot 52.6 percent from the floor and went 14-of-27 from three-point range.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich congratulated Doc Rivers and the Clippers, adding that his team played its best.
“I just told them I was proud of them. I thought they laid it all on the line,”Popovich said.
“I’m sure there’s an exception, but usually in the past, when we’ve won a series, we’ve won it hands down, or if we got beat, we got beat pretty easily.
“This was a grind. It was a little bit different.”