Final: Clippers 98, Memphis 91
Clippers 98, Grizzlies 91 (final)
Times Sports Editor Mike James tweeted it best:
"Both teams playing with playoff intensity, but Clippers-Memphis looks more like a Rucker Park game on extra caffeine than NBA."
Yes, their meeting at a sold-out Staples Center on Thursday night was physical, sloppy and short on "Wow, this is really quality basketball being played here" moments.
But after blowing a 16-point lead in the first half, the Clippers built a slim lead late and held on in a game that featured 19 lead changes to stave off the kind of loss they're accustomed to achieving.
The Clippers also bounced back from their loss Wednesday to the Lakers and improved to 10-6 overall.
Memphis, which was paying its second straight game and fourth in five days, fell to 10-8.
The Clippers owe Mo Williams plenty for this win. He had nine points in the previous three quarters, but he got hot in the fourth and scored nine quick points to put his team ahead by six with 5:17 left.
That lead was cut to two before Caron Butler hit a driving layup with 58.7 seconds left to give the Clippers a four-point lead.
Marc Gasol was called for his fourth personal foul on the other end, and Chris Paul sank down the ensuing free throws, putting the Clippers ahead, 95-89 with 45.9 seconds left.
Williams finished with 18 points, Paul had 18, seven assists and seven rebounds, Blake Griffin had 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and Butler had 17 points.
Four players scored in double figures for Memphis. Rudy Gay had a team high 24, and Gasol had 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
The Clippers shot 48.6% (35 of 72) from the field; Memphis shot 35.7% (30 of 84).
It was quite the physical game in the second half, a blizzard of flying elbows and arms.
Clippers guard Randy Foye earned a flagrant foul -- the Clippers' second of the game -- for basically clotheslining Memphis guard Josh Selby with 8:35 left.
Then around the 4-minute mark, Griffin received a not-so-welcome hit in the face from Gasol, brother to Lakers' Pau Gasol.
The Clippers travel to Denver to play the Nuggets at 5 p.m. PST Sunday.
Clippers 74, Grizzlies 72 (end of third quarter)
Tempers are rising...
But neither team is able to build a lead that can do the same.
The score was gridlocked for most of the third quarter, with each team jumping ahead by one basket every now and again.
The Clippers went up by five after a Mo Williams three-point shot with 4 minutes, 21 seconds to go.
That lead didn't last a New York minute.
The Clippers are ahead going into the fourth quarter after DeAndre Jordan's put-back slam of a missed Chris Paul layup with 1.3 seconds before the quarter expired.
It was a sloppy quarter for both teams, but the Grizzlies look like the tougher team, outracing the Clippers to loose balls on the court and out-positioning them for rebounds on both ends.
The Grizzlies have a 33-26 rebounding edge, by the way.
Blake Griffin has 20 points to lead the Clippers; Rudy Gay has 23 to lead the Grizzlies.
Also: The Clippers' Caron Butler was called for a flagrant foul for his takedown of Quincy Pondexter with 2:58 in the third.
Also, part two: The announced attendance at Staples Center is 19,275, the Clippers' 11th home sellout in 11 home games this season.
Clippers 45, Grizzlies 44 (halftime)
The Clippers of old often delayed blowing double-digit leads until the fourth quarter rolled around.
Because of this near-nightly habit, their fans swelled with anxiety as the seconds ticked off, knowing that their team's lead, no matter how large, was likely temporary and that a loss may as well be guaranteed.
But the Clippers of Thursday night against Memphis didn't wait that long to blow a fat lead.
Instead, they did it in the second quarter, and they lead by one at halftime after leading by as many as 16 in the first quarter.
"Get it together, Clippers!" one fan shouted.
The Clippers couldn't in the second quarter, when they were out-scored 27-16 after missing 12 of their 17 shots from the field.
Memphis made 10 of 19 shots in their comeback quarter.
At halftime, Caron Butler leads the Clippers with 12 points, and Blake Griffin has 11. They're the only Clippers to score in double-figures.
Memphis is led by Rudy Gay, who has 15.
Clippers 29, Grizzlies 17 (end of the first quarter)
Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins was late to Staples Center because of traffic.
Have you ever heard of a more unrealistic excuse ... especially in Los Angeles?
His team was on time, but on the court they're looking late, slow, bad, etc.
The Clippers raced out to a 16-6 lead, hitting seven of their first 11 shots.
That marked a trend: Los Angeles leading by double-digits (their biggest was by 16 points) and not missing shots, though, to be fair, a good many of them were fast-break layups.
For the quarter, the Clippers shot 63% (12 of 19) overall and they made four of six three-point shots.
Memphis shot 33%, but Rudy Gay did make an impressive half-court buzzer-beating three-point shot.
Also, if you're watching at home, do not adjust the contrast settings on your television set.
Yes, those are throwback uniforms, and yes, they are mighty colorful.
The Clippers are wearing powder-blue uniforms (like this) to commemorate the Los Angeles Stars, an American Basketball Assn. franchise that played from 1968 to 1970 at the Sports Arena.
The Grizzlies are also wearing throwback uniforms, a combination of lemon jerseys and Boston Celtics-green shorts (like this), to commemorate another ABA franchise, the Memphis Tams.
-- Baxter Holmes