LOS ANGELES: Chris Paul scored an acrobatic basket with one second remaining as the Los Angeles Clippers stunned reigning champions the San Antonio Spurs 111-109 on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to advance to the next round of the NBA playoffs.
Paul’s moment of magic at the Staples Center sealed a 4-3 series win for the Clippers who completed a fight back from 3-2 down earlier in the week to extend their postseason.
The dramatic final twist came after Spurs veteran Tim Duncan had levelled with free throws with just 8.8 seconds left.
Paul gathered the ball in the half court, and eluded Danny Green before leaning away from Duncan to flick the ball in over both defenders to give the Clippers a sensational victory.
“That’s a series for the ages,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It was clean, beautiful basketball.”
Rivers was awestruck by Paul’s game-winning shot.
“No balance on the shot, falling backwards, amazing,” Rivers said.
The Spurs had one last ditch attempt to retrieve victory but Matt Barnes batted away Boris Diaw’s lob intended for Kawhi Leonard to end the game.
“There wasn’t a whole lot you could do with one second,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
The Clippers, seeded three, will face the second-seeded Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, with game one on Monday.
Paul’s late winner was the 31st lead of a see-saw battle that saw neither team lead by more than eight points at any stage.
“I’m a better person after going through this series,” Rivers said in sentiments echoed by his Spurs counterpart Popovich.
Paul had exited for treatment to a hamstring strain in the first quarter before returning with 6:27 left in the second.
Despite the knock, he added 18 of his 27 points in the second half as the pressure mounted.