Chris Paul sank a running bank shot with one second left Saturday night to give the Los Angeles Clippers a 111-109 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in the decisive seventh game of their NBA Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center.
San Antonio was unable to get a tying shot off as Boris Diaw’s errant inbounds pass was intercepted by Matt Barnes.
Paul scored a game-high-equaling 27 points, despite a first-quarter hamstring injury, making five of six 3-point shots and Blake Griffin added 24, making 10 of 11 free throws.
Tim Duncan led the defending champion Spurs with 27, including two free throws with 8.8 seconds remaining to tie the score.
The Clippers will begin a best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Houston Rockets Monday in Houston.
The Clippers have never reached the conference finals in their 45-season history, which includes eight seasons as the Buffalo Braves and six as the San Diego Clippers.
This is the first time the Clippers have won a playoff series they had trailed three games to two.
“That’s a series for the ages,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team won despite losing twice in their four home games and by 27 in Game 3 in San Antonio April 24. “It was a great win for us, beating that franchise.”
There were 31 lead changes and 16 ties in Game 7. The Clippers led 79-78 entering the fourth quarter, when there were 12 lead changes and seven ties.
San Antonio had the biggest lead of the fourth quarter, 97-92, with five minutes, 40 seconds to play. The Clippers scored the next five points to tie the score.
Kawhi Leonard’s layup put the Spurs ahead, 105-102, with 2:48 to play. Barnes tied the score 36 seconds later with a 3-point basket. Neither team led by more than two points for the rest of the game.
“We thought we kind of had them at certain points, they continued to fight, made some unbelievable shots, made some unbelievable plays,” Duncan said.
Paul was “incredible all around” and “just an amazing competitor,” Duncan said.
“I know he was playing a little hurt and he played through all that, found ways to get it done,” Duncan said. “He’s just a great leader and it was amazing to watch.”
The Clippers made 40 of 76 shots, 52.6 percent, including 14 of 27 3- point shots, 51.9 percent. (The Clippers made 35 of 120 3-point shots, 29.2 percent over the first six games of the series.
San Antonio made 43 of 89 shots, 48.3 percent, including 10 of 25 3- point shots, 40 percent. The Clippers made 17 of 25 free throws, 68 percent, the Spurs 13 of 20, 65 percent.
Barnes added 17, with three 3-point baskets, Jamal Crawford 16 off the bench and J.J. Redick 14, making four 3-point baskets. Tony Parker added 20 and Danny Green 16 for San Antonio.
“It was a great series,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popvich, who has guided the team to five NBA championships since 1999.
“I’m really happy for them. Sad for us, obviously, for a lot of reasons, but really happy for that group. They’re trying to get it going and they’re obviously going in the right direction.”