- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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The opening weekend of the 2012 NBA playoffs featured two games with dramatic fourth quarter results that got the rest of league's attention.
On Saturday, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose tore the ACL in his left knee when he was still on the court in the fourth quarter even though the Bulls led the Philadelphia 76ers by 12 with just 1:22 remaining.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Clippers trailed by as many as 27 points in the second half and came back to beat the Memphis Grizzlies with a furious rally in the fourth quarter.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year, was left to defend his decision to keep Rose and the rest of his starters in the game. Just a day later, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro continued to play his best players late in the game even though his team entered the fourth quarter down by 21 points.
If Thibodeau had benched his starters, maybe Rose never gets injured. If Del Negro benches his starters, maybe the Clippers don't mount their stirring comeback.
"It’s kind of funny – not funny, because you don’t like to see anybody hurt – but, the reality of it is you can see why Thibodeau kept his guys in," Lakers coach Mike Brown said Monday. "Even me (on Sunday), anything can happen at any time. You got people shouting at you with six minutes to go and you’re up 15, ‘Get him out! Get him out! Get him out!’ well, let’s switch seats and let’s see what you do."
The Lakers saw their 13-point lead to start the second quarter be cut down to just four with 8:34 remaining in the quarter. Brown did not want to gamble against the Nuggets, the league's highest scoring team during the regular season, by resting his starters even when the Lakers led by 21 with 4:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Brown and the rest of his staff watched the Clippers game at the Lakers' practice facility after reviewing the tape from their Game 1 against Denver, while several Lakers players watched the game on their own and also saw just how precarious an "insurmountable" lead can be.
"It was bizarre," said Kobe Bryant.
"It was crazy," said Andrew Bynum. "It was a wild game. I was just like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe this is like a complete meltdown.’"
Pau Gasol, who was probably watching the game just a little more intently than his Lakers teammates because his brother Marc was playing in it, said there was a lesson to be learned from it.
"You can’t afford any breakdowns," Gasol said. "You saw for instance (Sunday’s) Memphis game against the Clippers how a game can turn around quickly and it doesn’t matter how big of a lead you might have, you just got to compete until the last play otherwise you’re just giving opportunities to the opponents that are going to try and take advantage of them."
Longtime Phil Jackson coaching consultant Tex Winter used to have a phrase he liked to say, "Everything turns on a trifle," and the Clippers game illustrated why a basketball coach that had seen just about everything that the game has to offer would say such a thing.
"(The Grizzlies) worked so hard, they worked so well, they had the game under control but they gave them an outlet, they gave them light and obviously the Clippers took advantage of it," Gasol said. "They made big plays, kept fighting and give them credit for that, but that just tells you that you can’t get away from what you’ve been doing all game long regardless of the score. You can’t play the scoreboard, you got to play the game and continue to do the right things on the floor."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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