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FINAL | April 13, 2013 | FedEx Forum | Memphis, TN

Clippers Logo

24

27

17

23

91

Grizzlies Logo

23

28

22

14

87

 

Eric Patten

MEMPHIS – It was a script the Grizzlies fans became accustomed to last year in the playoffs.

The Clippers were willing to scrap and claw and grit and grind with their hometown team and when the fourth quarter came around they had the right ingredients to take over the game.

On Saturday night, in perhaps the most important game of the season thus far, a stifling defensive effort and a 14-point run in the fourth quarter helped the Clippers pull out a thrilling, 91-87, win at FedEx Forum.

It was the fifth win in a row for the Clippers (54-26), who seem to be putting things together at just the right time. They own the tiebreaker with Memphis (54-26) in the race for the No. 4 seed and are now a half game behind the idle Denver Nuggets for No. 3 and are in prime position to host their opening game of the 2013 playoffs. A pair of victories on Tuesday and Wednesday will make it a certainty.

“It’s a very big win,” Blake Griffin said. “We kind of talked about it all week. We got asked about it. How big this game was and what it would mean. And we came out and took care of business.

 

“They knew what was on the line. We knew what was on the line. It was a physical game, just like the playoffs.”

Griffin wrestled his way to 12 points and nine rebounds and came up with game-saving deflection on Memphis’ final half-court possession. Chris Paul scored 13 points, including knocking down a crucial baseline jumper over Tony Allen to put the Clippers up 88-85 with three minutes to go.

The teams would go without a basket for the next 2:37 before Zach Randolph’s jumper cut Memphis’ deficit to one. And after Paul converted 1-of-2 free throws, Memphis had chance to tie or take the lead with 18.3 seconds remaining. But DeAndre Jordan, who scored 16 points (all in the first half) with a dozen rebounds and three blocked shots, rejected a runner by Mike Conley out of bounds. And seconds later Conley threw an errant entry pass to Randolph that Griffin read and poked away into the waiting arms of Matt Barnes.

“I saw the pin down for Conley and they swung the ball to Conley,” Griffin said. “And you kind of knew it was coming inside and I worked my way around [Randolph] and was fortunate to get a hand on it.”

Griffin immediately released up the floor and Barnes launched a 60-foot outlet pass to him on the other end. As Griffin leapt to catch ball he was grabbed from behind by Jerryd Bayless, resulting in a clear-path foul. Even after Griffin missed both free throws, the Clippers retained possession and Jamal Crawford knocked down a pair of charity shots to seal it.

The final Grizzlies possession, in which Griffin and Jordan both made plays to preserve the win, was indicative of the entire game for the Clippers on the defensive end of the floor. They held Memphis to 41.0% shooting, had eight steals, nine blocked shots and edged the Grizzlies in rebounding, 45-43. But even more so, they pushed when the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies pushed back.

“I thought we working and hustling and helping each other out and that was great to see,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.

“We understand that it’s going to be a dog fight,” Conley added. “I think both teams understand that. We have a lot of respect for each other and we go out there and compete. We have a lot of hard workers and we’re real physical teams and we’re very similar in that aspect.”

After the Grizzlies took a five-point lead in the fourth quarter, with a hostile crowd growling at full throat, the Clippers went on a 14-0 run behind Grant Hill’s five points and a swarming defensive effort from a group that included Ryan Hollins, Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe and Paul.

Hill had not played in nearly three weeks, but was called upon after Caron Butler did not return after playing nine minutes due to a sore right knee. He found a way to knock down a corner 3-pointer and a baseline turnaround off a missed layup by Bledsoe on successive possessions.

“I hadn’t played in a while, so it was fun to get out there and play,” the 40-year-old Hill said. “And it’s good to know I’ve still got it.”

Hill’s baskets propelled the Clippers to a 23-14 advantage down the stretch and the defense was reminiscent of the Clippers’ Game 7 victory in Memphis a year ago, when Bledsoe and Paul badgered the Memphis backcourt with ball pressure. On Saturday, the duo was equally as suffocating against Conley, helping hold the Grizzlies point guard to 4-for-11 shooting, 12 points and six assists.

Despite Paul and Griffin going 3-for-10 in the first half, Jordan and Willie Green were instrumental in helping the Clippers earn a lead as large as six points.

Green scored 10 points, while Jordan scored 16 with seven rebounds and was bounding all over the floor. He swatted in a missed jumper by Crawford poking his right hand between two defenders and banking the shot in. He tipped a pass at center court and somehow contorted his body enough to get a pass ahead to Bledsoe for a layup. And he was far and away better against Marc Gasol than he was in the last meeting when the Spaniard had 16 of his 21 points with Jordan on the floor in the Clippers’ 11-point loss at Staples Center.

“[Jordan] was huge,” Griffin said. “He ran the floor. He blocked shots. He finished at the rim. He rebounded. He did everything. That’s the kind of D.J. we need. He might not get as many scoring opportunities, but he can affect the game in a major way.”

Memphis, though, kept pace in a game that included two lead changes and nine ties and was punctuated by a flurry in the final minute. Green scored on a rebound put-back, Tayshaun Prince tied the game at 48 with a 3-pointer, Barnes snagged another offensive rebound and found Green on the left wing for a three, and Quincy Pondexter countered with a shot from long range in the right corner to lock things up at 51 with 2.9 seconds left.

“As bad as we played in the first half, we were still tied going into halftime,” Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said. “You just have to go in there and compete. That’s what it’s going to be whatever happens in the future, whether it’s them in the playoffs or someone else.”

The dance of contrasting styles, which could be on display next weekend in a repeat of last season’s seven-game series, was both entertaining and fiercely competitive. The Clippers looked to run at any opportunity to avoid allowing the second best field goal defense to set up in the half court. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, tried to make things into a wrestling match. But the Clippers, again, proved capable of adapting.

“That’s something that we had to develop,” Hollins said. “I don’t think we had that at the beginning of the season. But we knew to become good guys would have to do the little things. Jamal was a great facilitator, Grant came out played huge minutes, Lamar had some big tip ins, Bledsoe scrapped. You knew it was going to take that kind of effort tonight.”

NOTES
The Clippers moved to 28-0 when holding an opponent to 42.0% shooting or worse… They have defeated Memphis in nine of their last 14 meetings, dating back to the 2011-12 regular season, including four times at FedEx Forum… The Clippers committed just eight turnovers… Gasol finished with 18 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. It is only the third time the Grizzlies have lost all season (18 games) when he has a double-double… The Clippers bench outscored Memphis, 40-21, getting five points or more from all seven players who appeared… Bledsoe had nine points and three steals…

 
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