Memphis executed its gameplan to crawl back into its Western Conference first-round series with a 94-82 victory over the Clippers on Thursday night. Los Angeles leads the series 2-1.
1. Grizzlies get Zach Randolph (and others) going early and often.
Memphis got off to the start it wasn’t able to either time in Los Angeles. Randolph scored a combined 26 points in the first two games. He had 18 points in the first half Thursday and finished with 27 and 11 boards.
Randolph’s lone steal went to Keyon Dooling on a fastbreak for a 21-14 lead, the Grizzlies’ biggest lead of the series at that point. Memphis led by as many as 16. Randolph had a shot blocked by Lamar Odom in the second quarter — one of L.A.’s 10 — but kept control of the ball and scored for a 37-31 lead.
The Clippers again won from behind the arc, nine makes to Memphis’ four, but the Grizzlies won by 14 in the paint and finally had a rebounding edge, 45-33. It was 28-all on the defensive glass but 17-5 on the offensive end. Memphis held a 22-4 edge in second-chance points.
The rebounds kept Los Angeles from running as freely as it likes and played into Memphis’ hands.
Tony Allen was 0 for 3 in the first half, but he returned to the court early during the halftime break to practice shooting. He scored six quick points in the third.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul’s tormenting of Memphis halted for the time being. Paul looked more liked State Farm agent Cliff Paul, finishing with half as many fouls (4) as points (8). With Allen in his face, Paul air-balled a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
“It was uncharacteristic of us, especially me,” Paul said. “I had five turnovers. Our turnovers led to 17 of their points. They got offensive rebounds, things we hadn’t let them do.”
Pondexter had a playoff career-high 13 points. Center Marc Gasol had 16 points and credited point guard Mike Conley with limiting Paul’s damage on the pick-and-rolls. Conley had six points, but 10 assists and no turnovers. L.A. had 16 turnovers, Memphis 10.
2. Fouls again played a significant factor.
Fouls have been a bother to both teams during the series. In Game 3, the Clippers took the hardest hit. Four of L.A.’s starting five had a foul by the first timeout and it finished the half with 13. L.A. finished the game with 29 fouls to Memphis’ 22. Paul didn’t attempt a free throw. There was yet another double-foul on Randolph and Blake Griffin.
DeAndre Jordan picked up his second with 4:10 left in the half and Paul was hit with a technical for expressing his displeasure. Randolph hit the technical free throw and after a Paul miss — he was 4 of 11 — Gasol’s jumper gave Memphis a 43-31 lead.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 16 points, but picked up his third foul with 7:52 left in the third quarter against Gasol. Gasol had rebounded a ball on the other end and swung a ferocious elbow toward Griffin. Randolph then got one of his six offensive rebounds and Griffin carefully averted a fourth foul by standing helplessly as Randolph put it back in for a 12-point cushion.
A flagrant foul on Barnes may have been the dagger. Barnes came down hard on Randolph and Randolph gave him an intense pat on the head. Randolph made the first of two free throws but Memphis got the board and Pondexter scored for an 81-71 lead.
3. The Grizzlies need to even the series Saturday.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins is now 8-3 at home in the playoffs and this was Memphis’ 11th straight home playoff sellout. This one ended after midnight on the East Coast, past 11:30 p.m. in Memphis, so the day off and afternoon start time Saturday will be appreciated by both.
Game 4 is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET and as good as the Grizzlies feel about this one, going back West with a 3-1 deficit isn’t appealing on many levels.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” Allen said. “We’ve won one game. There is still a Game 4. We’re not even too happy about it.”
Memphis’ defense played without a doubt its best game of the series — which isn’t really saying a lot compared to the Clippers’ 102-point average in the first two. L.A. had 62 points at the end of the third quarter and Paul still hasn’t hit double digits for the game.
Memphis worked the Clippers to the shot clock a handful of times. Los Angeles went on a 10-2 run between the third and fourth quarters and later cut the lead to five, but a jumper from Gasol and an alley from Conley to Bayless pushed it to nine with 7:30 left.