Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Chris Paul seemingly winced after every made field goal, including the deciding basket.
Game 7 somehow exceeded the lofty expectations.
"That's a series for the ages," Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "It was clean, beautiful basketball."
That it was.
Paul's acrobatic go-ahead basket with one second remaining lifted the Clippers to a 111-109 win over the San Antonio Spurs in a Game 7 thriller on Saturday night.
After Tim Duncan's free throws tied the game with 8.8 seconds left, Paul had the ball just inside halfcourt with Danny Green draped all over him.
Paul dribbled to his right to get a step on Green and alertly leaned farther right to avoid Duncan, flicking the ball in over both defenders to put the Clippers in front.
"No balance on the shot, falling backwards, amazing," Rivers said.
Boris Diaw's ensuing lob inbounds pass into the lane intended for Kawhi Leonard was batted away by Matt Barnes, ending the game.
"There wasn't a whole lot you could do with one second," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
The third-seeded Clippers advanced to face the No. 2 seed Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals. Game 1 is Monday.
Paul's astounding shot was the 31st lead change of a classic nip-and-tuck game. There were 16 ties and neither team led by more than eight points.
Eleven of the lead changes came in the fourth quarter.
It was a fitting conclusion to a tight seven-game series.
"I'm a better person after going through this series," Rivers said.
Popovich echoed Rivers' comments.
"Six of the seven games were a grind; it was a great series," he said.
Paul exited at the 1:52 mark of the first quarter with a left hamstring strain before returning with 6:27 remaining in the second.
Despite the injury, Paul managed to score 18 of his 27 points in the second half. He was 9-of-13 from the field overall and knocked down five of his six attempts from beyond the arc.
"I thought about our team and all the things we've been through," Paul said about leaving the game. "Just try to find a way."
The Clippers trailed by one when Paul checked back into the game. Jamal Crawford kept them within striking distance, netting nine points during the stretch.
Blake Griffin had a triple-double with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, Matt Barnes netted 17 points and Crawford added 16 for Los Angeles.
Duncan finished with 27 points and 11 boards, while Tony Parker supplied 20 points and five assists for the defending-champion Spurs.
San Antonio tallied six offensive rebounds during a three-possession span late in the fourth, with Parker's tip-in staking it to a 107-105 edge with 1:23 left.
Crawford drove in for a layup at the other end to knot the contest and empty trips down the floor by both teams followed.
Paul drew a foul on Duncan following a step-back right elbow jumper and sunk both foul shots with 13.3 ticks on the clock. Duncan then made his pair at the other end after being fouled in the paint.
Earlier, the Spurs made six of their first eight shots and opened up a 13-6 advantage. Barnes poured in the first seven points of a 9-0 spurt for the game's first lead change as the Clippers held a 20-19 edge.
Diaw's straightaway 3 in the final 30 seconds gave the Spurs a 30-28 margin following a quarter of play and his triple at the first half horn pulled them within 57-55 at the break.
"Chris is injured, Blake is in foul trouble and somehow we headed into half with a two-point lead," Rivers said. "That was the difference in the game."
Manu Ginobili alertly threw up a three-quarter court heave as Austin Rivers intentionally fouled him in the waning seconds for the third and the referees awarded him with three free throws.
Ginobili sunk two, but Paul banked in a right wing buzzer-beating 3 at the other end for a 79-78 Clippers advantage.
Paul, who played all 82 games in the regular season for the first time in his NBA career, was 1-of-9 from long distance over the first six games ... The Clippers shot 52.6 percent (40-of-76) and made 14-of-27 from beyond the arc ... The home team improved to 96-24 all-time in Game 7s.