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Clippers lose another dramatic finish, 120-114

The Grizzlies did just enough to hold off the Clippers down the stretch.

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

Through two games, the Clippers have run as hot and cold as any team in the league, making it hard to get a read on just how good this group is.

The one thing we do know is that they’ve yet to land in the win column. Despite 41 points and 10 rebounds from Paul George, who did his best to will the Clippers back in the second half, L.A. fell in the home opener, 120-114, thanks to Jaren Jackson Jr.’s game-saving 3-pointer with 17.5 seconds to play.

It didn’t seem like the Clippers would be in that position. Early on, it looked like they would have their way with the Grizzlies, as the L.A. bigs had their first opportunity of the season to shine.

The first game of the season may not have been the right matchup for Ivica Zubac. But against the paint-attacking Grizzlies, who feature their own bruising man in the middle in Steven Adams, Zubac was right at home. That was clear right away in the first quarter when Zubac went diving to the floor to steal an offensive rebound away from Ja Morant, an effort that got the crowd roaring and the bench on its feet. After Marcus Morris Sr. and Eric Bledsoe both missed shots, Zubac finished the possession with a resounding putback dunk.

He wasn’t the only big to eat against the Grizzlies frontline. Isaiah Hartenstein came into the game and had an immediate impact against Jaren Jackson Jr. Hartenstein was a pick-and-roll menace, scoring on four straight possessions directly at the basket for nine points as the Clippers built a 13-point lead.

Unfortunately, the wheels came off shortly afterward. The Clippers had been defending well, forcing Ja Morant into being a jump shooter by going under on screens and keeping the Grizzlies from getting out into the open court, allowing only seven transition points through two quarters. But L.A. couldn’t keep Memphis off the line; the 10-1 difference in free-throw attempts mean that the Grizzlies were able to claw back to within three by halftime.

Things got worse before they got better. That defensive discipline all but evaporated. Whether it was Adams on the glass, De’Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane in the lane, or Morant everywhere else, the Clippers were conceding everything. Memphis pushed its lead to 16 with 4:42 to play in the third before Paul George finally took control.

George, who had earned his first free throw attempts of the season just minutes earlier, reeled off 11 points before the close of the period, adding another three on an assist to Nicolas Batum to close the gap to eight. It might have been tighter had the Clippers shown a pulse in transition defense, but Melton got a lay-up to end the third after a Terance Mann turnover.

The Clippers needed another spark in the fourth, and that came in the form of Eric Bledsoe, who has come to play in his second stint in Los Angeles. Bledsoe was everywhere: he drew free throws in the paint, kicked out to Marcus Morris Sr. for a three, drew a charge on Morant, leaked out in transition... you name it, Bledsoe did it.

The Clippers just couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch, and the Grizzlies eked out a few late-clock jumpers to escape with the road win.