FINAL | January 14, 2013 | FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN 

Clippers

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99

LOGO

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73

 

ERIC PATTEN 

MEMPHIS–Through most of the first half of the season the Clippers have displayed an unmatched ability to bounce back.

Coming off a home loss to the Magic and without point guard Chris Paul, the Clippers earned a resounding, 99-73, victory Monday over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum in their first trip back to Memphis since they eliminated the Grizzlies in Game 7 of the 2012 playoffs.

Charged with opening a three-game road trip without their superstar point guard, who sat out with a bruised right kneecap, the Clippers (29-9) put on their most impressive defensive performance of the season. Memphis (24-12) scored a season-low 73 points and shot 30.3%, the third worst effort in franchise history.

“I thought our defense did a great job of putting pressure on them and making them miss some shots,” said Blake Griffin, who grappled with burly Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph throughout the night. “I think we contested a lot of shots. We were on our rotations a lot. We just put a hand in their face and made it a little bit tougher.”

It was the fewest points the Clippers have allowed this season, and the largest margin of victory by a Grizzlies opponent.


“We didn’t have our starting backcourt, but we found a way to lock in defensively and get a good road win,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay missed the game in order to attend his grandmother’s funeral.

Moment of Truth: A hearty chorus of boos greeted the Clippers at FedEx Forum during player introductions. But the passionate distaste for the Bluff City’s Western Conference rival was extinguished by a 13-0 run from the Clippers bench between the first and second quarters. Crawford had two steals in the run and Grant Hill had a pair of baskets, his first field goals as a member of the Clippers. But the stretch was predicated, as was much of the night, on the Clippers’ defensive energy.

Difference Maker: Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford. The duo usually makes up the best bench backcourt in the NBA, but on Monday they made the up a two-man point guard tandem in place of Paul. Bledsoe, who at shoot-around said he just had to “bring energy” and play his game, did just that. He was swarming defensively, deflecting at least five balls in the first half, getting to the rim, and tracking down offensive rebounds, including one where he darted around Zach Randolph and collected an errant shot along the baseline.

“I thought he was solid,” Del Negro said. “I thought controlled the tempo of the game very well. He attacked when he needed to. He got us into sets when he needed to. I thought his defense, you know, he’s so athletic out there. He had a nice pace to his game, which was very important.”

Crawford, who tied Matt Barnes with a game-high 16 points, balanced his game between aggressiveness as a scorer and playing within the flow of the offense.

“I knew when I was at point guard, missing [Paul], I wanted to focus on getting other people the ball,” Crawford said. “Even if it wasn’t assists, just get the ball moving. Then when I was in with [Bledsoe] I could focus more on scoring, so I was trying to find a balance between the two and it worked out for us tonight.”

Stat Line of the Night: 

Hill. In addition to making his first three field goals as a member of the Clippers, Hill was dynamic, even playing the role of point-forward at times during his 17 minutes of court time. He scored eight points on 3-for-5 shooting with four rebounds and four assists.

“It’s coming,” Hill said. “I think was more nervous than anything in the first game, but be able to calm down a little bit and go out there and make your first shot and run up and down the court and get bumped and fall and pass and, you know, play the game. It’s a process. The thing I’ve just got to remind myself personally is that you don’t want to be frustrated with where you are [physically], but also don’t want to be satisfied.”

More Stats: 

Crawford. He ran the offense when Bledsoe was on the bench and led the team in shots and free throws. Crawford went 5-for-14 from the field, but was 6-for-6 from the line as he scored 16 points. His best shot of the night came late in the second quarter, ducking under Wayne Ellington for a double-clutch bank shot. Crawford added two assists, a steal and a block in 27 minutes.

Barnes. The tandem of Crawford and Barnes off the bench has been somewhat of a revelation. On Monday night, Barnes went 2-for-5 from 3-point range, drilling a flat-footed shot with the 24-second clock dwindling and another one from the corner. He matched Crawford with 16 points and chipped in eight rebounds and two steals.

Griffin. The numbers are far from riveting. He’s scored just 20 points in two games this season against Memphis. But Griffin sent a message on the game’s opening possession, snaring a rebound and dribbling coast-to-coast up the right sideline for a dunk.

“The game just got out of hand,” Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur said. “Blake [Griffin] got the dunk at the beginning of the game, and they set a tone. We couldn’t get back into it.”

Griffin finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes, fighting through early foul trouble and performing yeoman’s work fighting off Randolph on the boards.

Hot: The Clippers’ bench at the free throw line. All six reserves attempted at least one free throw and only Ryan Hollins missed. As a group Barnes, Crawford, Hill, Hollins, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf went 14-of-15 (93.3%).

Not: The Grizzlies shooting. They shot 30.3% (27-of-89). Without Gay in the lineup, two of their primary scorers (Randolph and Conley) combined to go 7-for-27 and Randolph missed four of his nine free throws. Guard Wayne Ellington, who replaced Gay, shot a team-high 4-for-9 (44.4%). Randolph led the Grizzlies in scoring with 15 points, needing 16 shots. He also had a game-high 12 rebounds (10 offensive).

Quotables:

On the Clippers:

Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins: “I haven’t seen all the teams but they do have talent. They have athleticism. They have a lot stuff going for them. That’s why I said before the game that they’re the best team in the West, maybe the best team in the league right now.”

On defensive effort:

Crawford: “I thought it was great. It was a collective effort. We know they like to go inside, obviously. They’re a very capable team. They’re one of the teams we may see down the line, but we had a heck of a defensive effort and I thought that sent the tone for us.”

On Griffin’s performance:

Del Negro: “Blake got in some foul trouble early, but I thought he set the tone for us early in the post. He got some quick baskets for us. I thought he battled all night. He had a handful of assists, making the right play. Blake’s unselfish play really opens up things for everybody else.”

On Crawford’s aggressiveness:

Hill: “It really helps us a great deal. Jamal just constantly attacks. You know, he was hurt. He missed a few games [with a sore foot]. I think with the time off he needed to get his rhythm. He got his rhythm tonight. Maybe for him, handling the ball a little bit at the point, he was able to get the ball in his hands and get a feel. And when he’s good, and 95% of the time he’s played at that level, then we’re really good.”

Notes: It was Memphis’ second loss in a row by 21 points or more… Hill played in his 999th career game… Odom had seven rebounds, marking the fourth time in the last six games he’s had at least six… Even without Paul in the lineup, the Clippers committed just 10 turnovers… They also had 18 fast-break points… DeAndre Jordan blocked three shots. He’s had three or more blocks twice in 2013… Caron Butler scored nine points all on 3-pointers, including making two in the third quarter. He is tied for the NBA lead with 30 3-pointers in the third this season… The 30.4% field goal percentage by the Grizzlies was the lowest shooting percentage by a Clippers opponent since Feb. 19, 2000 when they held the Bulls to 28.6%.

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