POSTGAME REPORT | ROUND 1 – CLIPPERS VS. GRIZZLIES, GAME #6 – 5/3/13
FINAL | May 3, 2013 | Fedex Forum | Memphis, TN
MEMPHIS – It’s over.
The Clippers, despite a record-setting regular season, could not stave off elimination Friday night at FedEx Forum, falling to the Grizzlies, 118-105, and losing their first-round playoff series, 4-2.
Matt Barnes scored a playoff career-high 30 points with 10 rebounds and Chris Paul, who threw up multiple times in the locker room before the game and played with a bruised left thumb, scored 28 points with eight assists and no turnovers in 41 minutes before being ejected with 2:29 to play for picking up his second technical foul.
The Clippers outshot the Grizzlies from the field, had a plus-one edge in rebounds and committed just 13 turnovers (the Grizzlies had 12), but they could not overcome a 47-24 disparity in free throw attempts. They were whistled for five technical fouls and 33 personal fouls on the night.
“I think the thing that hurt us the most was our foul trouble,” Blake Griffin said. “They went to the free throw line too many times. They were in the bonus pretty early in each quarter, each of the first two quarters for sure. That kind of limited us [our ability] to play aggressive down the stretch or to play aggressive at the end of quarters and the end of the half.”
Griffin, who came off the bench for the first time as a member of the Clippers due to a high right ankle sprain, played 14 minutes and finished with nine points and three rebounds.
The loss ends an historic season in which the Clippers won a franchise-record 56 games, including a 17-game winning streak and perfect 16-0 December, and first-ever Pacific Division championship.
Paul, who wavered between fired up and dejected in his postgame press conference, said those accolades are diminished without postseason success to show for it.
“I hate to lose no matter what it is,” he said. “It stings. It’s the worst. I didn’t have nothing planned until after June, as far camps or nothing like that. I’ve got nothing to do. I’ll spend a lot of time with my kids and my family, which is all good and well. But all I know is basketball and we’re done.”
After taking a 2-0 lead in the series, the Clippers lost the next four to the Grizzlies. On Friday, Memphis simply had more runs in them. The Clippers took a one-point lead in the first half but Memphis closed it with a 7-2 run. The spurt continued into the third quarter, extending their lead to as large as 16.
The Clippers closed to within six with possession of the ball midway through the fourth quarter, but Chauncey Billups lost the ball out of bounds and Quincy Pondexter converted from 3-point range on the next possession.
“They had a really good third quarter and even after that we cut it,” Billups said, referring to the 34 points Memphis scored in the third. “Pondexter had a big three and right after that we didn’t’ score and [Jerryd] Bayless hit a big three at the end and it just kind of opened it up. We just kept fighting, but it’s hard to fight from behind, especially on the road, and try to get over the hump.”
The two 3-pointers helped Memphis pull away in the final minutes, earning their second trip to the second round of the playoffs in the last three years and helping avenge last season’s loss to the Clippers in seven games.
A big part of that was Tony Allen, who had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and was effective against the Clippers double-teaming of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as a cutter and hurt the Clippers with several “energy” plays.
Randolph, who was ejected with 1:57 to go after picking up his second technical foul, scored 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting and avoided ejection midway through the third quarter when he was assessed a technical foul for choking Griffin during a skirmish.
“We went down and I think the tape will speak for itself,” Griffin said. “I haven’t really looked at it again. I felt somebody’s hand on my neck and had a little scrum going.”
In the early going, the Clippers looked prepared to send the series back to Los Angeles for a Game 7 Sunday.
Barnes had a perfect first half, going 6-for-6 from the field with four 3-pointers and 2-for-2 from the foul line. He made two of the seven free throws the Clippers earned in the first 24 minutes. They had just 11 attempts, including just three in the second quarter, while the Grizzlies owned a 30-11 advantage in first-half free throws, continuing a series-long trend of scoring a bulk of their points at the foul line.
Yet even with the disparity the Clippers quelled the foul trouble, an eight-point deficit and the unbridled emotion of the FedEx Forum crowd to take a one-point lead in the second. They trailed 58-53 at halftime after Memphis closed the first half with a 7-2 run.
The Clippers nearly climbed back in it in the second half by using a small lineup that consisted of Barnes, Paul, Billups, Caron Butler and Grant Hill, who played 20:08 in his first action of the series. That’s the group that cut it to six, mixing in a frantic 3-2 matchup zone and spreading the floor offensively to space out the Grizzlies big men. But it was somewhat of a case of too little too late.
“I think that we got 100-percent effort from the guys that were out there,” said Billups, who scored four points. “We played small, we scrapped, we fought and that’s something I think we maybe should have done earlier in the series. But you obviously can’t play that small for too long of a stretch. They’re too big. They have too much of advantage in the post.”
For Paul, it sounded difficult for him to withhold his disappointment.
“We took too long to come to the fight,” he said. “We waited until Game 6 to play aggressive and match their intensity.”
Paul had 28 points (11-16 FG, 0-3 3PT, 6-9 FT) with eight assists (zero turnovers), four rebounds and one steal in 41:15.
Barnes went for a playoff career-high 30 points (11-14 FG, 6-7 3PT, 2-3 FT), adding 10 rebounds and a steal in 36:42.
Allen scored 19 points (5-9 FG, 9-11 FT), including 16 in the first half, and seven rebounds, six assists and four steals in 30:42.
Butler had 14 points (7-16 FG, 0-4 3PT) and three rebounds in 32:55.
On his ejection:
Chris Paul: “We went small and we had our smaller guys in the game. Chauncey said, ‘I’m going to box out the shooter.’ And he asked me to go down and help out on Marc Gasol. I went to go help Matt and next thing you know I’m in the locker room.”
On where the series was lost:
Willie Green: “It wasn’t tonight. It was after Game 2 when things with south when Memphis said we’re going to start hitting guys and pushing and shoving and bumping and choking, whatever they needed to do to win the game. As a team we didn’t come out and match that intensity.”
On falling behind in the series and coming back to win four in a row:
Quincy Pondexter: “On the first two games, they really stuck it to us. They play at such a high intensity and energy level, and when we came back swinging, they didn’t have the same fight. I am glad we came out on top. I hope we don’t get ourselves in any more holes like we did, 0-2. At the same time, it is a lesson learned.”
On physical nature of the series:
Tony Allen: “We matched their intensity from start to finish, but the main thing, we wanted to stay aggressive. We didn’t want to lose our composure early. We knew they were going to come out firing. It was an elimination game for those guys. We wanted to stick to the things that we were doing. That was pounding it down there to Marc Gasol and Z-Bo [Zach Randolph] and just feeding off those guys. We know we go as far as they go.”
The Clippers out-rebounded the Grizzlies, 35-34. It is the first time in the series a team won the rebounding edge and lost the game… The Clippers are the first team in NBA history to lead a best-of-seven series and lose each of the following four games by 10 points or more… It is the second year in a row, the Clippers were eliminated from the postseason with four-straight losses… Jamal Crawford went scoreless in 12 minutes, going 0-for-5 from the field. It is the first time since March 2006 that Crawford took at least five shots in a regular season or postseason game without scoring… Paul averaged 22.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game in the series. It is the third time in his career his playoff averages exceeded 22 points, six assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals. Since 1946-47, someone has played a minimum of six games and has put up those numbers just 33 other times…
GRIFFIN PLAYS THROUGH PAIN
After the game both Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro and Griffin talked about Griffin’s high ankle sprain as well as the decision to bring him off the bench.
Del Negro: “We knew he could only play in four- or five-minute spurts because of the strength of his ankle. I mean, I don’t think people understand how big his ankle is. Literally, it looks like a grapefruit. He’s got a high ankle sprain and like I said, I give him a lot of credit for playing, a lot of guys wouldn’t. He battled through it and the guys did an incredible job in terms of the therapy and stuff, it just came at a bad time.”
Griffin: “All day today, I fought and pleaded with our trainers to let me play because I felt like I could go and once that worked and we were all on the same page, I told [Del Negro], ‘You can use me however you want. I just want to play and want to try to help.’”