FINAL | March 13, 2013 | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA

Clippers

24

30

21

21

96

LOGO

24

28

17

16

85

 

RAFAEL GUERRERO

 

LOS ANGELES – With just .002 percentage points separating the teams in the Western Conference standings prior to Wednesday night’s game, the meeting between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies had all the atmosphere of a playoff game.

The Grizzlies used a potent offensive attack with five players in double figures as they scored a 96-85 victory at Staples Center, putting them two games ahead of the Clippers in the loss column and 0.5 games up in the West.

The loss denied the Clippers (45-21) a chance to clinch the season series against the Grizzlies (44-19), which could be a tiebreaker if the teams end up deadlocked at the end of the regular season. They play for a final time in Memphis on April 13.

“I would like to see us capture the heat of the moment a little bit better and understand the level that you have to play at on a consistent basis against a Memphis or a top team,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I think we did that in spurts but we have to do it far more consistently as we move forward.”

Last season’s seven-game opening round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies proved to be one of the more physical series’ in last year’s playoffs and the physicality continued on Wednesday.

“They’re pretty physical,” said Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who had 24 points and nine assists. “We saw that in seven games last year and we were able to adjust to it. We’ve got to figure some things out.”


It was the Clippers fourth loss to a top-five Western Conference team since the All-Star break, but Paul was more concerned with the team’s level of play as the postseason approaches.

“I think I’ve been on both sides,” Paul said. “I’ve been on a team that was a two seed going into the playoffs and I’ve been on a team that’s a seven seed. When you get into the playoffs, sometimes you have the ability to be on a team where it doesn’t matter what seed you are. You’ve just got to make sure you’re playing the right way.

Despite trailing for most of the second half, the Clippers were able to hang around and cut the Grizzlies lead to 81-78 with 7:19 left in the game thanks to Chauncey Billups. The 16th year guard scored seven consecutive Clippers points, starting with a fade away jumper from 14 feet away to cut the Grizzlies lead to 78-73.

Billups finished with 10 points on the night, while Blake Griffin had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists.

After a three-pointer from Jerryd Bayless made it 81-73, Billups answered with a three-pointer of his own. He then capped off his run with a 16-foot fade away jumper from the right block to bring the Clippers within three.

But they would get no closer as the Grizzlies answered with a 9-2 run to seize control of the game.

“They played well and you can’t take that away from them,” Clippers power forward Blake Griffin said.

The Clippers allowed the Grizzlies, who came into the game shooting 34.5% from beyond the arc, to hit 6-of-12 from distance.

“They’re not a great three-point shooting team but the guys that shoot threes got three-point looks and that just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Del Negro said.

The Grizzlies came into the game known for their defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the NBA. But their offense did the talking as they shot 54.4% for the game. They shot 65.6% in the first two periods, led by Tayshaun Prince’s 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter and had 18 in the game.

“Tayshaun was the difference tonight,” Del Negro said. “In the first quarter he took control of the game. We had a little bit of a lead and couldn’t slow him down with our coverages and that really hurt.”

CHRIS PAUL SCORES 10,000TH POINT

Chris Paul recorded his 10,000th career point in the second quarter, becoming the fourth player in NBA history to score 10,000 points and have 5,000 assists before the age of 28. He joined Stephon Marbury, Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson.

He is also the sixth player to accomplish that feat prior to his eighth season. He scored 18 points in the first half and finished the game with a game-high 24.

NOTES

The Clippers are now 34-34 all-time against the Grizzlies and 22-13 at Staples Center… Jamal Crawford scored two points in his first game back from a left ankle injury. He had missed the team’s previous two games… The Clippers outrebounded the Grizzlies, 34-31, including a 13-10 edge on the offensive glass… Griffin was 6-for-7 from the free throw line and is now shooting 65.9% from the charity stripe this season… 

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