The Los Angeles Clippers rallied from a 27-point deficit to stun the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The visiting Clippers, who were blitzed by an early onslaught of Memphis three-pointers and trailed by 27 late in the third, tied an NBA playoff record of pulling off a victory after trailing by 21 points with one quarter remaining.
Nick Young scored 19 points off the bench, including a flurry of three straight three-pointers in the fourth, Chris Paul made two game-winning free throws with 23 seconds left and Los Angeles ended the game with an astonishing 28-3 run.
Memphis’ Rudy Gay scored 19, but missed a shot as time expired that would have salvaged a victory that looked certain for most of the game.
“Coach took me out at the end of the third quarter and I went nuts. I just said: ‘Coach, give us a chance,’” Paul told reporters after finishing with 14 points and 11 assists. “[I thought we could win] the whole time.”
The victory came at a high price, though, as forward Caron Butler suffered a broken left hand and could miss four to six weeks.
The 32-year-old got his hand caught in the jersey of the Grizzlies’ Gay during the third quarter and eventually left the game.
“I was able to keep playing, but once I got subbed out I felt the throbbing,” Butler told reporters. “I went and got an X-ray and noticed that I had a fracture.”
Butler finished with 12 points.
His absence will leave a young Clippers team without one of their few proven playoff performers.
In other playoff action, the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks all took 1-0 leads in their best-of-seven series, with the Hawks upsetting a Boston Celtics team who could lose one of their key players after an ugly altercation.
Boston’s Rajon Rondo may face a post-season suspension after his chest-bump with an official further soured the 83-74 home loss.
Rondo was given a technical foul for arguing a call in the final minute, and quickly made matters worse by confronting referee Marc Davis and defiantly bumping him, earning a second technical and an ejection.
Rondo claimed the bump was unintentional, though the incident could see him penalized by the NBA.
“As I was walking [toward him] I thought he stopped and my momentum carried me into him,” said Rondo, who had 20 points and 11 assists. “I didn’t intentionally chest bump him, but that’s what it appears to be.”
In Los Angeles, the Lakers dominated Denver 103-88 behind 31 points from Kobe Bryant and a triple-double by big man Andrew Bynum.
Bynum tied an NBA playoff record with 10 blocks, while adding 13 rebounds and 10 assists to give the Lakers their first post-season triple-double since Magic Johnson in 1991.
Bynum’s presence slowed the NBA’s top scoring team during the regular season.
Danilo Gallinari had a team-high 19 for the Nuggets, who shot just 35 percent from the field.
In San Antonio, Tony Parker scored a game-high 28 points and the red-hot San Antonio Spurs rolled to a 106-91 victory over the Utah Jazz.
The West-leading Spurs, who were upset in the opening round last year, despite also being the top seeds, got off to a strong start to the playoffs this time round.
Eighth-seeded Utah, who used a five-game winning streak to squeeze into the playoffs, were led by Paul Millsap’s 20 points.