After a miraculous comeback Sunday night, the LA Clippers faced off again with the Memphis Grizzlies tonight but couldn't repeat the magic, falling 105 to 98. This was a tough, tightly contested battle but after the Grizzlies grabbed the lead in the second quarter they never lost it again, leading by four at the half, six at the end of the third. Still, the Clippers kept the game close and weren't really out of it until late in the fourth, when Memphis finally grabbed a 13 point lead with 3:50 left in the game... even then the Clips got it back down to seven, but Memphis refused to give this one away, and finally managed to slam the door.
Leading the way in the Memphis attack was Rudy Gay, but the Grizzlies had a well-balanced attack with six players in double figures (including OJ Mayo off the bench with 20). Chris Paul led the Clippers with 29 points and 5 steals. Blake Griffin went 22 and 5.
It's pretty easy to find the Clipper's deficiencies in the box score. The LA team had an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers, and allowed the Grizzlies 16 offensive rebounds (to their own 4). Clips lost the overall rebound battle, 37 to 28.
The game was very toughly played, the Grizzlies big men made life rough for the Clippers big men (particularly Blake Griffin). This might be harbinger for things to come. It appears that in "playoff basketball", the officials tend to let player's play. It seems we saw a little more of the real Memphis Grizzlies tonight, while on Sunday we saw a free-wheeling jump shooting, high scoring team, tonight Memphis returned to what got them into the playoffs in the first place, efficient unspectacular offense and tenacious defense.
- Rudy Gay went 9-13, showed terrific shot-selection and wonderful efficiency. With no Caron Butler, Clips struggled for a defensive answer. It clearly wasn't Bobby Simmons or Nick Young. Gay is too quick for Simmons, too big for Young.
- Bobby Simmons started in place of injured Caron Butler and played 22 minutes. Coach Vinny Del Negro struggled with his lineup throughout the night, looking for combinations that would provide adequate balance at both ends of the floor. We Clipper fans tend to overlook Caron Butler, especially recently... but he gives the Clippers size, toughness, a big wing defender, and a generally reliable third or fourth scorer. The Clips had no one to replace him tonight.
- Randy Foye continued to be among the missing. Foye and Butler have proved to be essential pieces in the Clipper's winning recipe. Butler, of course is out, probably for the rest of the playoffs, Foye scored 6 points in 26 minutes.
- Blake Griffin continues to get beat up inside and continues to garner completely unwarranted enmity from opposing fans. He (and Chris Paul) are proving to be the Clippers strong men. That's really not a surprise.
- More injuries? Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe, and Nick Young (all non-factors tonight) all went to the bench at various times with injuries. With three days til the next game, let's hope none of them miss any time.
- Randolph v Blake Griffin. Randolph is still obviously not entirely back from surgery, but he and Griffin's tussling down low is vintage WWE.
Clips and Memphis are due to face off again on Saturday in Los Angeles. Though they lost tonight, the Clippers did exactly what they needed to do in Memphis, grabbing a critical away game.
(In case you're wondering why I'm writing the recap tonight, it seems Clipper Steve Perrin is down with some sort of illness. I got a last minute message calling me in from the bullpen. Steve also missed the get together in Long Beach tonight. If anyone was there, could you check in and give us a report? - Raffo)