The superstar forward, who played through a sprained left knee suffered on Wednesday, could not afford to play with uncertainty in the early going again.
In a series that's at times been turbulent, exciting, unpredictable, and confusing, and sometimes all four at once, it's fitting it should come down to this:
Sunday. Game 7. Winner take all.
After arriving in Memphis Saturday, the Clippers held a walkthrough in a ballroom at the team hotel to game-plan for Sunday's 10 p.m. PST showdown at nearby FedEx Forum.
"This is uncharted territory for us as a team," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We just have to stay together, battle through it, and stay together as a team. That's all you can do right now. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, you just need to go out and do it, health-wise give us as many minutes as you can, and take another swing at this thing."
"It's going to be tough because it's in Memphis. That crowd's going to be excited. Unfortunately, I guess a lot of people are going to miss church on Sunday to come watch us play."
LAST TIME OUT
Grizzlies 90, Clippers 88 (Series tied, 3-3): With 7:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph put in layup after two consecutive offensive rebounds. The basket pulled Memphis to within six points and set off a 10-0 run over less than two minutes, erasing the Clippers' 76-68 advantage almost as quickly as L.A. had earned it.
And down the stretch Chris Paul, the Clippers indomitable closer playing with a strained right hip flexor, turned the ball over on consecutive possessions and did not score.
"Tonight we were like them, at the end of the game having an eight-point lead and letting them back in," Paul said after the game.
The Grizzlies would never relinquish their lead, sending the series back to Memphis for Game 7.
Paul finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting, seven assists and five rebounds. Griffin had 17 with five rebounds and six assists. But both players were a shell of their normal selves.
A burst-out performance by Eric Bledsoe and the Clipper bench (READ MORE) was offset by Marc Gasol and Randolph. The Memphis center scored a game-high 23 points for the Grizzlies, while Randolph, who thrived grabbing six of the Grizzlies' 15 offensive rebounds, went for 18 points and 16 boards for his second double-double of the series. RECAP
"It just seemed like the bounces we usually would get were not there [in Game 6]," Randy Foye said. "[Friday] was a big game and on Sunday it will be a big game again and we have to close it out."
Overcoming adversity is something the Clippers have seemed to overcome all season. (http://www.nba.com/clippers/games/pregame-part-1-LACMEM-120512.html)
–The First Quarter. The Grizzlies have gotten off to big starts in four of the six games in the series and have outscored the Clippers 166-135 overall in the opening quarter. With the hostile FedEx Forum crowd in their usual fervor, it will be imperative for Los Angeles to resemble the hot-starting team they were in the regular season when they averaged 25.6 points per game in the first (seventh in the league).
–Rebounding. The Clippers have been outrebounded in the series overall, but in three games they've allowed the Grizzlies to grab 16 or more offensive rebounds, including 15 in Game 1.
"We have to get defensive rebounds, instead of giving up offensive rebounds," said DeAndre Jordan, who had four rebounds, seven points, a steal, and a block on Friday. "We've got to get back in transition. It's really [about] protecting the paint."
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Caron Butler vs. Rudy Gay
Butler is one of three active Clippers who's played in a Game 7 and the only one who's won one. He's also averaging 21.9 points and 10 rebounds in potential elimination games. He broke his hand in Game 1, missed Game 2, and returned a game later after he was originally slated to miss 4-6 weeks. Throughout the series Butler's provided an emotional lift to his teammates, but he's also played admirable defense on Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies top scorer in the regular season. In the five games Butler's played, Gay is shooting 37.2% (32-for-86).
MORE ON GAME 7
Chris Paul: "We've got to win. This is it. Game 7 is going to be exciting. It's in Memphis and we showed an ability to win there."
Lionel Hollins: "All this means nothing because this is a one-game series, and everyone has a chance to win."
Mike Conley: "It's exciting. It's my second [Game 7]. They're fun to play in; it's win or go home for both teams. You get to experience something you really don't get to experience, it's basketball its best."
Randy Foye: "we have to go to Memphis and play one more. The biggest thing for us is we have to play our game, we have to go down there and out-rebound them and make it a dog fight."
Rudy Gay: "[Evening series] feels good. We got out of a big hole we dug ourselves in the beginning of the series. It feels good to get out of it. I knew it was going to be a fight. It wasn't going to be easy. I thought it would maybe come down to this because we're so evenly matched."
DeAndre Jordan: "We have to forget [Friday's] game because we have to go back down to Memphis and play another game. We are going to have to really take care of the ball and limit them to one possession."
Zach Randolph: "[Experience] helps us. We have been through the storm before. Last year we played in more hostile environments than this and it showed tonight."
The Clippers have lost the last two games. They only lost three in a row on one occasion this season (March 20-22)... The Grizzlies have won 13 of their last 14 home games, including three out of four over the Clippers... In the series vs. Memphis, the Clippers bench has outscored the Grizzlies, 176-147, and is averaging 29.3 points. L.A. averaged 24.8 points off the bench during the regular season...
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