Clippers charge past Grizzlies
By Brett Winkler
A charge in the NBA is defined as a violation in which an offensive player runs into a stationary opponent. Conversely, a blocking foul is defined as illegal personal contact which impedes the progress of an opponent.
What happened with 5.7 seconds remaining in Tuesday night’s tilt between the Grizzlies and Clippers was apparently a combination of the two.
With the shot clock expiring, Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe drove into Tony Allen, prompting conflicting calls from referees Tony Brothers and Violet Palmer.
After a lengthy review, the consensus among the officials—which happened to differ greatly from that of the 15,433 raucous fans at FedExForum—was a rare double-foul on Bledsoe and Allen, resulting in a jump ball at center court. Chris Kaman’s outstretched fingertips beat Marc Gasol’s to the ball, and the Clippers ran out the clock to secure an 82-81 road win and snap the Grizzlies’ six-game home winning streak.
After shooting just .395 (34-of-86 FG) from the field, including .316 (6-of-19 FG) in a 13-point fourth quarter, the Grizzlies weren’t about to pin the loss on anyone but themselves.
“It was one of those games where it was just going to be this way,” said Grizzlies Head Coach Lionel Hollins of the narrow defeat. “It looked like we felt like we could turn it on at anytime, and we had spurts where we did. We have to have that consistent effort and commitment to what we do for 48 minutes, and we didn’t have it.”
The consistency the Grizzlies have grown accustomed to went by the wayside in part due to an erratic shooting night from the bench, which has helped stabilize the starting group throughout the stretch run. Memphis’ reserves combined for a 5-25 night from the field (.200), never able to establish a rhythm.
Despite leading by no more than four points in the contest, the Clippers hung around long enough to stay alive, even when Memphis held a 13-point lead with 4:01 to play in the third quarter. Los Angeles responded with a nine-point run to cut the lead to four (63-59) before the Grizzlies closed the frame with five of their own, taking a nine-point lead into the deciding quarter.
The Clippers began the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run to take a 69-68 lead after a 4:50 second stretch that included six misfires and two turnovers for the Grizzlies.
“Guys just hit big shots,” said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who tallied 15 points and 14 rebounds. “My teammates made plays. We got stops on the defensive end and we hit big shots.”
Greivis Vasquez entered the game to end the Memphis draught on a three-pointer, the Grizzlies’ only triple of the game, to help Memphis lead by three (79-76) with 2:02 remaining, but Clippers guard Mo Williams took the game over. Williams, who finished with a team-best 16 points, made consecutive three-point plays, one on a long range shot and the other on an and-one, for six of his nine fourth-quarter points. L.A. held on to the final lead of the game, then an 82-79 advantage with 1:31 to go.
“We just battled,” said Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro. “It wasn’t perfect, but we made enough plays.”
The imperfections were evident on both sides. The two clubs combined for just 25 assists while turning it over a total of 34 times and neither squad shot well from the field. There were some positives too, though, as Mike Conley became the Grizzlies’ single-season steals leader with four thefts tonight (138 on the season), eclipsing James Posey’s mark of 137 set in 2003-04. Marc Gasol had a monstrous night as well, recording 14 points, 15 rebounds, a career-high tying four steals and three blocks.
Despite the loss, Memphis still improved its playoff chances tonight thanks to a Rockets loss to the Kings, whom the Grizzlies will face Friday at FedExForum. Memphis’ magic number—the combination of Grizzlies wins and Rockets losses necessary for the franchise to earn its first postseason berth since 2005-06—is down to two.
“It was one of those games,” Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. “Houston lost so that kind of takes the sting out a little bit. We have to keep our heads up and come out on Friday.”