|CLIPPERS STUMBLE IN MEMPHIS|
- ERIC PATTEN @ericpatten
LOS ANGELES - The Clippers battled to slice a 17-point deficit to three in the final minute Monday versus the Memphis Grizzlies. But a baseline dunk by Rudy Gay and a turnover by Chris Paul on the ensuing possession proved too costly as Memphis defeated L.A., 94-85, at FedEx Forum.
The loss leaves the Clippers (34-23) just 0.5 games ahead of the Grizzlies (33-23) for the No. 4 spot in the ever-shuffling Western Conference playoff race. It was L.A.'s second loss in its last 10 games.
"Overall, I thought they [Memphis] outworked us," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we didn't shoot the ball well or rebound the ball well."
The Clippers shot just 41% for the game, 4.3% below their season average, and suffered lengthy dry spells, including opening the second quarter 1-14 from the field. Memphis, comparatively, shot 50% and made six of its first 11 shots to jump out to a seven-point lead in the opening minutes.
Turning Point: After Foye knocked down a corner 3-pointer off an inbounds pass and Kenyon Martin made two free throws, the Clippers were within four points of the Grizzlies prior to halftime. Yet Memphis dominated the final 1:35 of the second quarter, scoring seven straight points to take a 52-41 lead into the locker room.
Turning Point 2: Still, the Clippers battled back. They trailed by double-digits for a lengthy portion of the second half, before mounting a comeback in the fourth. Paul made consecutive layups, including a dazzling crossover to his left to blow by Marc Gasol.
Griffin powered a half-hook shot over Marreese Speights and then found Eric Bledsoe with a long outlet pass for a fast-break layup.
After the Clippers forced a shot clock violation with 1:25 left, Paul made contact with Speights, drawing a foul, and flipping in the layup for a 3-point play. Less than 20 seconds later, Griffin delivered a high-low pass to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk to make it 86-83.
But with another possession seemingly going to waste for Memphis Mayo found Gay cutting baseline for an uncontested dunk. Paul dribbled off his knee out of bounds as he stumbled over Quincy Pondexter on the next possession.
Stat Line of the Night: Gasol. The Spanish big man made six of his 12 shots for 18 points and had eight boards, seven assists, and two blocks.
Del Negro said Gasol's ability to spread out the defense left the Clippers scrambling and helped the Grizzlies grab 15 offensive rebounds.
More Stats: Paul. He played a team-high 41:11 and shot just 7-of-17 from the field, but as usual he was a major part of the Clippers' late charge. Paul scored 12 of his 21 points in the second half and also finished with six assists and three steals.
Griffin. It was a somewhat subdued night for Griffin, despite 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting. He managed just six rebounds and played three minutes in the second quarter after picking up his second foul in the early going of the period. Jordan. After playing two low-impact games against Sacramento, Jordan was active on both ends of the floor Monday. He nabbed a game-high 10 offensive rebounds (14 total boards), had 14 points, made both of his free throws, and blocked two shots. With the shot clock winding down in the third quarter, Jordan also knocked down a jumper over Gasol and jokingly flexed his muscles running back to the defensive end.
Hot: Gay. The athletic wing for the Grizzlies hit 6-of-10 from the floor for 16 points and threw down the decisive dunk in the final minute.
Not: Clipper wing players. Foye, Caron Butler, and Nick Young shot a combined 7-for-29 from the field, including 2-11 from 3-point range. It was in stark contrast to the previous six games for Foye, who led the NBA in 3-ponters made with 25 and was averaging 20.2 points per game on 47.3% shooting.
Chris Paul: "Part of it was that we started actually getting stops and the other thing is we started making a few shots. I didn't help us at all tonight. I couldn't make a shot, couldn't throw a rock in the ocean. We had a lot of easy ones tonight that we just couldn't convert."
Blake Griffin: "We just got stops. We got in the open court and got some easy buckets. Once that happens, some shots start to fall. We fought back, but obviously didn't finish it out and that was the problem."
On offensive struggles, including only 15 assists:
Vinny Del Negro: "It was just missing shots. [Memphis is] good with their hands and getting steals and things. We struggled from the field that's why our assists were down."
On Memphis defense:
Rudy Gay: "We punched first. We limited them. They had a couple spurts where they made a couple baskets. For the most part, give credit to Quincy (Pondexter). Also, Mo (Marreese Speights) and Z-Bo (Zach Randolph) playing against Blake (Griffin) and making sure he didn't have any easy looks. That's what he does. He throws his body in there and tries to get fouled. We played good defense."
Notes: Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen missed his third game with a facial laceration. Mo Williams (toe) did not play for the Clippers. It was the tenth consecutive game Williams has missed due to the injury... The Clippers forced 20 turnovers, but it was offset by their inability to grab defensive rebounds. They were out-rebounded by Memphis 48-36 and the Grizzlies grabbed 15 offensive boards, leading to 10 second-chance points... The Grizzlies outshot the Clippers 55% to 36.6% in the first half...the loss drops the Clippers road record to 13-14.
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