"I told them, 'Please try harder,'" Clifford said with a laugh after the game. "'I'm begging you. I know y'all make more money than me. I know most of you could get me fired. I'm just saying, please.'"
Jeremy Lin answered that plea by scoring 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to help Charlotte rally for a 91-88 victory on Monday. The game snapped the Spurs' six-game win streak and denied them their 60th win of the season.
Although perhaps not quite "Linsanity II," the 23-point lead was the largest surrendered by the Spurs in the Tim Duncan era, which began in 1997, according to information provided to the Hornets by Elias.
Lin went 11-of-18 from the field. He hit all four 3-point attempts, including three in the fourth quarter, and provided the go-ahead jumper with 48 seconds left.
"He was spectacular," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We couldn't stop him all night. He had a great night. He was wonderful."
Charlotte became the first team to score seven or fewer points in the opening quarter and come back to win since the Utah Jazz did so against the New Jersey Nets on Dec. 12, 2008.
"We turned the ball over a little too much -- just inconsistency throughout," Duncan said. "It was an unfortunate loss, but we will move on from it and hopefully become better from it."
Courtney Lee had 17 points, including 14 in a pivotal third quarter. Nicolas Batum added 15 points, and Cody Zeller grabbed 14 rebounds for the Hornets, who bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
"We just turned it up," Lin said. "We just played hard. I'm so thankful to God because I've been struggling so much. We lost one the other night [that] we felt like we shouldn't have lost, so to come out here and get this win is a huge boost for us."
The Hornets snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Spurs and picked up an important win.
"Lin was the catalyst in this," Clifford said. "In the first quarter, I don't know what the numbers were, but we were just shooting the ball [and not] getting in the paint. He got the ball going toward the basket. So we scored 84 in three quarters against a team [that] right now, by the numbers, is going to be the best defensive team in NBA history."
Early on, it looked like the Spurs would rout the Hornets. San Antonio led 28-7 after the first quarter, in which the Hornets were held to 3-of-21 shooting from the field -- including a pair of air balls -- and gave up five turnovers. Parker, with 12 points, outscored the Hornets in the opening quarter.
But Charlotte battled back and steadily chipped away until finally taking the lead on a pair of 3-pointers from Lin from the top of the key with 9:09 left in the game.
"When the first 3 went down and when I'm comfortable and in a zone, it's usually good for me," Lin said.
It was back and forth from there. Then Lin provided the shot of the night by hitting a fallaway jumper from 16 feet on the right wing with 48 seconds left. That gave the Hornets the lead for good at 89-88. Lin grabbed a rebound on the other end of the floor and was fouled. He converted a pair of free throws with 18 seconds left.
Spurs: Held Hornets to a season-low seven points in the first quarter. ... Duncan passed Gary Payton in career minutes played (47,117).
Hornets: Charlotte held a 21-4 edge on fast-break points. ... For the second straight game, the Hornets failed to reach 40 points in the first half. They entered the locker room down 51-36.
Miami, Atlanta, Boston and Charlotte are separated by a half-game in the race for third in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
WHO WAS THERE?
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