With his backcourt mate out of the picture for the final three quarters and Memphis’ big men losing some steam down the stretch, Mike Conley went to work and carried the Grizzlies to a gritty win that put them over .500 for the first time this season.
Conley scored eight of his 15 points during a 4-minute span in the fourth quarter, Zach Randolph had 26 points and 15 rebounds against his former team, and the Grizzlies overcame the first-quarter ejection of shooting guard Tony Allen to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 106-102 on Monday night in a rematch of their first-round playoff series.
”It was real big, doing what we did and not having Tony,” Randolph said. ”Guys stepped it up and our bench came in and did a good job. That’s what we need.”
Marc Gasol had 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to help end the Clippers’ four-game winning streak and send them to their first home loss.
Blake Griffin had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Chris Paul added 18 points and 11 assists for his 11th straight double-double, the most by any player to start a season since Magic Johnson also had 11 in 1990-91.
Allen was charged with a flagrant-2 foul with 1:51 left in the opening quarter after he lifted his left leg in a vain attempt to impede Paul’s drive to the basket and kicked him in the face. Allen walked over to Paul at the foul line to apologize while referees Bill Kennedy, Mark Ayotte and John Goble watched the replay at the scorer’s table to determine the severity of the foul.
”I was just trying to make a play — leaving a great shooter like Jamal Crawford in the corner, knowing Chris Paul’s tendencies,” Allen explained. ”Chris sees everybody that’s open, and I accidentally kicked him. But I’m pretty sure he knows that it was accidental. That ain’t my style of play.
”I had to let him know that it wasn’t intentional. He understood that, and he told me he knew it wasn’t. But the refs reviewed it, and it was a blow to the head. So that was the result — me getting kicked out. It was just unfortunate that I couldn’t help my team throughout the game. But they had my back and played hard throughout the game.”
Paul got out of it with just a few loose teeth. It could have been much worse had he not been wearing a mouthpiece.
”I know Tony didn’t do it on purpose,” Paul said. ”I went mute for a while, just because I hate being hit on the lip more than anything. I just hate having a busted lip. But I know it wasn’t intentional, and I didn’t expect him to get ejected. I think he thought I was about to throw the ball to the corner, so that’s a natural instinct.”
Playing in front of their 100th consecutive sellout crowd, including the postseason, the Clippers trailed 90-83 with 8:20 remaining after Memphis opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run. They got as close as 90-88 on a 16-footer by Paul, but the Grizzlies extended the margin to 101-91 with an 11-3 run capped by Conley’s jumper with 1:51 to play.
”I was on the bench for a little bit there with foul trouble, and we were wearing out our big guys,” Conley said. ”They were getting tired, so I knew it was time for me to be a little more aggressive, look for my shot and try to get into the paint. I was able to do that and make some shots.”
Randolph paced Memphis to a 52-51 halftime lead with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Clippers, who trailed 25-13 at the time of Allen’s ejection, closed to 39-35 midway through the second period with a 9-2 spurt before reserve forward Matt Barnes was scratched near his left eye by Randolph as the Grizzlies forward was being double-teamed by Barnes and Griffin down on the block.
Barnes was charged with a foul before going to the dressing room, and didn’t report back in until 3:25 remained in the third quarter with the Clippers down 74-71. His two free throws put them ahead 78-76 with 1:14 left in the period, and the Grizzlies responded with a 19-footer by Randolph and a 3-pointer by Mike Miller before Clippers guard Darren Collison beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer of his own to tie it at 81.
The Grizzlies won the final four games of their first-round playoff series against the Clippers last spring after dropping the first two at Los Angeles, then got swept by San Antonio in the Western Conference finals. The previous season, the Clippers beat Memphis in seven games during the opening round, winning the deciding game on the road before getting swept by the Spurs in the conference semifinals.
”Every year we find ourselves back in L.A.,” Conley said. ”They’re a very good team, very physical, and it’s a great rivalry right now.”
NOTES: The Grizzlies are 5-0 when Randolph leads them in scoring. . . . Paul’s longest overall double-double streak in the NBA is 12 games. . . . The Clippers have used the same starting lineup through the first 11 games of a season for the first time since 2004-05, when coach Mike Dunleavy kept his starting five of Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Marko Jaric, Bobby Simmons and Chris Wilcox intact for the first 13 games. . . . Griffin, who had a season-high 30 points on Saturday against the Nets, was selected Western Conference player of the week for the second time in his career. He averaged 25.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists, helping the Clippers go 3-0. . . . It was Griffin’s 98th game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds since the start of the 2010-11 season, tying Minnesota’s Kevin Love for the most during that stretch.