It's going to be tough for the Los Angeles Clippers to come up with an encore for their Game 1 performance when they resume their Western Conference quarterfinals set with the stunned Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
The Clippers, of course, overcame a 27-point second-half deficit to win Game 1, 99-98, on Sunday.
Faced with that huge hole against a talented Grizzlies team that had won 11 straight and finished 26-7 at home in the regular season, LA star Chris Paul, who is dealing with a strained groin, could have shut things down early with an eye on Game 2.
In fact, no one would have batted an eye if Paul asked out of what was turning into a rout. Instead, the All-Star was seen pleading with his coach Vinny Del Negro to put him back into the game.
Paul eventually capped a furious rally with a pair of free throws with 23.7 seconds left, as Los Angeles came all the way back to take the 1-0 series lead and steal home-court advantage.
"I remember coming out at the end of the third quarter and told coach, 'Let me go back in. It's never over, give us a chance, give us a chance,'" Paul said. "And I think when our energy picked up, we got a few stops and Nick Young hit a couple threes and in any situation you've always got to believe."
Memphis, which opened postseason play on its home floor for the first time in franchise history, dominated early, but the Clippers closed the game with an amazing 28-3 run and matched the NBA playoff record for the largest deficit overcome after three quarters when they trailed by 21.
Paul finished with average numbers by his standards - 14 points and 11 assists - but this was a game all about intangibles.
A Los Angeles victory appeared unattainable in the early going, when the Grizzlies opened the game with a 23-9 spurt and held a 34-16 lead after one quarter. Memphis was up 58-39 by the break before extending its lead to 27 in the third.
It almost seemed like the raucous FedEx Forum crowd was ready to spill out onto Beale Street for a late happy hour.
Early in the final quarter, it was 95-71 when the Clippers began their comeback. Reserve forward Reggie Evans, the very definition of an energy player, began the surge with a layup and later gave the Clippers their first lead of the game, 97-96, with another bucket in the final minute.
"We felt good going into the fourth quarter," Evans said. "We started chipping away, chipping away. Then all of a sudden you could feel it. You just kind of could see it in their (the Grizzlies') eyes. You could feel that heartbeat, it started changing, and we took advantage of that."
In between, the streaky Young made three straight treys, the last of which cut the deficit to 96-93 with 1:47 left.
"It felt good being out there and the coaches having confidence in me in the fourth quarter," Young said. "And C.P. [Paul] being the point guard that he is, he just found me in my spots out there."
Paul was the key. He's the leader of this team and the voice. By refusing to give in to what looked like an untenable situation, he lit a fire under his teammates.
"That game was such a blur, I need to watch it to remember it," Paul said. "(I've never been in a comeback) in a game of that magnitude with that much intensity and so much at stake."
Young finished with 19 points, Blake Griffin had 17 and Caron Butler had 12 but the news wasn't all good for the Clips. Butler suffered a fractured left hand in the second half and is expected to be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks.
The veteran forward is the second key Clipper with extensive playoff experience on the bench, joining Chauncey Billups (torn Achilles),
"I've got mixed emotions," Butler said. "Having this injury is obviously disappointing, but at the same time, winning the game and coming back after a huge deficit is still rewarding."
Young or Bobby Simmons is expected to start in Butler's absence.
"Anything can happen and people step up. We're not expecting anything to be easy with Caron or without Caron," Memphis forward Rudy Gay said.
The Grizzlies, who knocked off the top-seeded Spurs in last year's first round for their first ever postseason series win, were paced by Gay's 19 points in Game 1. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo both had 17 points and All-Star Marc Gasol finished with 14.
"They drew first blood," said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. "I'm disappointed that we lost but there is a lot of basketball yet to be played."
That starts tonight and Hollins put his team on notice Tuesday.
"We have got to win the game," the coach said. "We have got to go out and play well in the first, second and third quarter and like I said, if we're up 27, 21 points in the fourth quarter, I'll take that. And then just finish it."
On the injury front for Memphis, defensive stopper Tony Allen missed practice Tuesday with a sore knee but is expected to play.
Memphis lost two of three meetings against the Clippers in the regular season. These two teams have never met in the postseason before.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday in LA.