Clippers lose a big one to Grizzlies, 96-85

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies held the Clippers to 1-8 shooting down the stretch and pulled away to claim sole possession of third place in the Western Conference standings.

The Memphis Grizzlies came out and beat the Los Angeles Clippers in STAPLES Center Wednesday night, there's no two ways about it. Did the Grizzlies shoot the ball better than you might expect them to? Sure. Tayshaun Prince appeared to have turned back the clock at least five years and Marc Gasol made 10 out of 11 shots in one sequence, mostly long jumpers (or flat footers in his case). Did they get a little lucky here and there? That too. Tony Allen made two baskets, and I'm not sure he shot either of them -- the first slipped out of his hands and went in and the second was actually tipped in by Grant Hill.

But even with the Grizzlies shooting lights out and the the Clippers ice cold from deep (they finished 6-26), the Clippers were still within three points with seven minutes remaining. At that point, you expect the better team to win, and that's exactly what happened in this game -- the Grizzlies outplayed the Clippers down the stretch and outscored them 15-7 to win handily. The Grizzlies defense held the Clippers to 1-8 shooting in the decisive moments, and other than a blown Blake Griffin layup, there was a reason the Clippers were missing -- because Memphis locked them down.

The Clippers were certainly not at their best. Jamal Crawford, who had been red hot before twisting his ankle and missing the last two games, returned to action and made his first shot -- after which he missed his next nine. Matt Barnes, who was 5-5 on three pointers Sunday, went 2-9 from deep against Memphis (wouldn't the Clippers love to swap those numbers?)

But even if the Clippers might have had a lead earlier in the game had they shot a little better or had the Grizzlies missed a few more shots, in the end Memphis was the better team when it mattered most, and that means something.

And it has to be a concern at this point that the Clippers have done so poorly against the league's best teams in the past month or so. Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City have been the best teams on the season. Denver and Memphis join Miami as the hottest teams in the league right now. The Clippers have had the scheduling misfortune to have played all five of those teams over the last five weeks, losing all five games, four of them by double digits. L.A. has won all of their other games fairly handily -- but it's beginning to look like the Clippers may in fact be what their critics say they are. A flashy team that can build highlight reels against the mediocre teams of the league, but can't compete against the top level teams.

It's certainly not time to panic. Although this loss puts them a half game behind the Grizzlies for third place in the Western Conference (two games in the loss column) there's a lot of season left, and Memphis is not going to keep winning at this clip. Three of the Grizzlies' next four games are at Denver, at Utah and against the Thunder, so the Clippers will very likely find themselves back in third place within a week -- and if they don't then Memphis is truly to be feared.

But the third seed or the fourth seed or the fifth seed won't matter much if the Clippers can't figure out how to beat the best teams. Because it turns out that there aren't any bad teams in the postseason -- not in the Western Conference anyway.

For the Memphis perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues.



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