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Clippers Can’t Complete Comeback, Fall To Grizzlies, 111-107

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It was a November game fit for May. In a changing world, it’s nice to know Clippers-Grizzlies is still the same.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There was some discussion in certain circles before the game about whether this is still a rivalry. The Memphis Grizzlies clearly think it is. It took until the third quarter for the Clippers to realize it. Once they did, a playoff game broke out.

Mike Conley and Marc Gasol showed that old bears can learn new offensive tricks, and the Memphis Grizzlies handed the Clippers their second loss of the season, 111-107.

Most readers will remember these teams’ two hardscrabble playoff series, as well as the fights, and the 27-point comeback, and the fights. Without the luxury of seven games this November, the Clippers and Grizzlies tried to fit a series’ worth of storylines into one nationally-televised Wednesday night.

In no particular order:

  • Mike Conley, $153 million man, shot his bank account’s worth from deep. He scored a game-high 30 on 9-of-12 shooting. He tied a career high with 7 triples (on 9 attempts). Oh, his prior 7-triple game came on November 4th against, yup, the Clippers.
  • JJ Redick finished the game as hot as he started it cold. He poured in 22 of his team-high (and season-high) 29 in the second half, matching Conley’s 7-for-9 three-point performance in the second half alone. (Redick was 0-3 on threes in the first half.)
  • Redick wasn’t the only Clipper to begin the game cold. The team played the first 24 minutes as flat as year-old Pepsi. Blake Griffin was the sole Clipper displaying appropriate urgency, hustling his way to 17 first-half points, 15 in the first quarter, on his way to 25 for the game. But the Grizzlies controlled this one early. A 14-0 Memphis run against the Clippers’ bench turned into a 35-18 second quarter, and the Clippers ended their worst half of the season trailing by 15. Credit the Grizzlies’ defense, which made the Clippers work for every inch of space and created transition opportunities for easy offense.
  • The third quarter was WILD. The Clippers woke up. The crowd woke up. The Grizzlies fought back. The lead fluctuated more than the NASDAQ, from 15 down to 6, back up to 16, and down to 7 entering the final quarter.
  • The third quarter was also ROUGH. On one possession, Blake body-checked a midair Marc Gasol, then clenched JaMychal Green’s feet as the young Memphis forward lost the ball out of bounds. On the following possession, Memphis rookie Andrew Harrison horse-collared Luc Mbah a Moute on a fastbreak layup attempt. JaMychal Green shoved Blake Griffin in the ensuing fracas, the Clippers scored 5 on the combination of flagrant- and technical-induced free throws and possession, and the energized comeback was on. And yet, that may not have even been the wildest sequence of the quarter. I could describe it you, but I’d rather show it to you:
  • Thanks to a tauter defense and some clutch Jamal Crawford shotmaking (9 points in the fourth quarter, 15 for the game), the Clippers pulled into a 107-105 lead with 1:02 remaining in the game. 36 seconds later and with the score still the same, Chris Paul stripped James Ennis of the ball and was called for a foul that I’ll call, um, debatable. Ennis made one of the two free throws.
  • Which brings us back around to Marc Gasol. Memphis’ stalwart center scored 26 points, his final 3 — that’s right, I said 3 — coming from the corner with 14 seconds remaining. That was Gasol’s fourth (!) three-pointer of the evening, a weapon he has famously added this season. It would give the Grizzlies a lead they would not relinquish again.

On some nights you play well and shoot even better. Tonight, that was the Grizzlies. Their play was focused and well-organized, and they augmented that inspired play by converting 57% of their 26 three-point attempts.

And some nights you don’t play your best, and then you shoot poorly and dig the hole a little deeper. That was the Clippers for a lot of tonight, and their self-inflicted wounds, such as a dreary 13-22 free throw rate in the first half, were ultimately too much to overcome.

The Clippers learned they aren’t invincible, and it took some old rivals to show them.

Game Notes:

  • Zach Randolph is a handful as a bench scorer. His size, footwork, and shooting touch are too much for most bench units to handle. He rang up 18 points in just 26 minutes.
  • Chandler Parsons started for the Grizzlies and played 14 minutes in the first half, but sat out the entire second half with an injury. He was listed as questionable (knee) prior to the game.
  • DeAndre Jordan was solid on the boards, pulling down 14 (4 offensive).
  • Chris Paul was harassed by the rookie Harrison’s frenetic defense for much of the night. He managed just 9 points (5-11 FG) and 5 assists in 34 minutes.