CLIPPERS FEED OFF CROWD’S ENERGY
Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 5/5/12

LOS ANGELES–With a giant blur of red shirts imploring him, Kenyon Martin backed down the court with his palms skyward, flapping his arms to encourage more wild chants of “De-fense” from the 19,060 fans Saturday at Staples Center.
Martin seemingly wanted them to rise like the slogan proclaims.

“Rise Up,” the Clippers mantra for the better part of two seasons, he might have demanded. While the phrase has been slightly altered for the playoffs, “Risen” was printed on a large banner that spanned the north entrance to the arena, it was still applicable Saturday.

The sometimes late arriving crowd was early, standing well before Game 3 tipped. They wore red shirts reading “All In.” They were active and energetic, spirited and engaged. It seemed as though they were intent on upping the ante on a hostile Memphis crowd from Games 1 and 2.

“Today was something I probably won’t forget,” said Chris Paul, who scored a team-high 24 points with 11 assists and four steals in his first home playoff game as a member of the Clippers. “The energy in the crowd was unbelievable. I’ve only been here for a year, but I haven’t seen anything like that. Coming in here seeing all that red, seeing all the fans on their feet and cheering and celebrating, we had no choice but to go out there play hard and to fight.”

Slogans and décor are one thing, but, according to Paul, the crowd a bigger influence.

“I think this is one of those games that the crowd won the game.”

The crowd chanted for Reggie Evans as the cult popular power forward threw his body around for rebounds and hounded Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and heartily booed Randolph. They went bonkers for Griffin’s four dunks, a massive blocked shot by DeAndre Jordan, and a 3-pointer by Randy Foye that tied the game at 80 with 3:17 to go.

“It was unbelievable,” Griffin said. “When he came out at 22 minutes or whatever time we come out before the game to warm up, how many fans were there and they were on their feet. You know, that’s the loudest we’ve heard it when we came out and just that energy throughout our whole warm up, the intros, start of the game, and parts of the game was unbelievable.”

Foye, who on Friday said he knew fans would be ready, also called the atmosphere “unbelievable.”

Following the national anthem and the introduction of the Grizzlies starting lineup, the video board displayed season highlights spliced with messages about the various traits that brought the Clippers to the postseason and as players were introduced they walked between two racks of lights that blasted smoke and flames.

It was a Hollywood introduction. And it likely set the tone for the 48 minutes of basketball that ensued.

The crowd support certainly inspired Paul. Late in the first quarter, after knocking down a baseline fadeaway and drawing a foul on Mike Conley, Paul turned to a contingent of fans near the basket and pounded his chest.

“I loved it [the crowd’s energy],” Paul said. “This win goes to our fans, too. That energy. We need that, especially at this point of in the season. And I’ll say one other thing: just like we’ve got to go to the drawing board and get better and come back [for] Game 4 ready and play better, our crowd’s got to come with more energy. We’re going to need them more in Game 4 than we needed them tonight and I’m sure they’ll be ready.”

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