MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies are moving on to the Western Conference semifinals against the Thunder after Friday’s 118-105 victory over the Clippers in Game 6. This marked Memphis’ second playoff series win in franchise history. Here are three observations from the most physical game of a very physical series.
1. Memphis is moving on (a roll).
The Grizzlies didn’t technically sweep the series, but did win four straight to win it in six. The only people outside Los Angeles hoping for a Game 7 were WWE officials hoping to make a pay-per-view out of it.
It was Memphis’ 13th straight playoff sellout and arguably its wildest. There were seven technical fouls and two ejections — all in the second half, one that needed accompanying turnbuckles. Clippers forward Blake Griffin appeared to grab Memphis forward Zach Randolph’s headband and pull him to the ground. Randolph retaliated, pinning Griffin to the ground. Griffin said he felt a hand on his neck. Neither would talk too much about the incident.
“I don’t even know what happened,” Randolph said, then smiled. “I was going down. He was pulling me down. I was just trying to brace myself. I really don’t know.”
Randolph drew the technical — after the now-patented double foul call — but the lively home crowd used it to Memphis’ favor. Tony Allen led the 18,119 yellow Growl Towels into a “Beat L.A.” chant. Seconds later, Randolph gave Memphis a 77-63 lead on a make and foul on Griffin and Clippers point guard Chris Paul drew a technical foul.
The Clippers drew five technicals, Memphis two. Down by 14 with 2:29 left, Paul was ejected after his second technical and near-ejection of Matt Barnes. Randolph was ejected with 1:57 left. Mouthing toward the Los Angeles bench, Randolph tossed his headband above the Memphis’ bench and was cheered from the aggressive arena. He finished with 23 points. Point guard Mike Conley also finished with 23.
Midway through the second quarter, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins found himself on the floor, holding his five back from what could have become a scuffle. Caron Butler and Marc Gasol got tangled under the L.A. basket. Butler was called for a technical, Allen a personal.
2. Will the real Matt Barnes please stand up?
With Griffin playing less than 14 minutes due to a sprained ankle — 9 points and 3 rebounds — Barnes became the guy the Clippers needed to make plays. Barnes kicked a trash can of food all over the floor on his way off the floor after a loss in Game 4, but was knocking down jumpers Friday. He finished with a game-high 30 points and 10 boards off the bench.
Lamar Odom drew the start for Griffin, but Barnes came off the bench and started 6 for 6, four of those from downtown, for 18 points by the half.
With his bigs in foul trouble, Allen became the scorer for Memphis with 19 points. His 16 points at the half tied a career playoff high. Gasol played in foul trouble and through double teams to finish with 10 points and seven boards.
3. Whistle while you work: Grizzlies earned a living at the line
At one point, Memphis was on pace to shoot 80 free throws. There were plenty of whistles, as the teams combined for 59 fouls, 33 of them against the Clippers. Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill had three apiece by the half. Lamar Odom had his fourth 70 seconds into the third quarter. Seven different Clippers were called for fouls in the game’s first 10 minutes.
Memphis started 2 for 6 from the line and finished 38 of 47. L.A. hit 16 of 24.
Gasol picked up his second with 2:37 left in the first quarter and went to the bench with only two free throws on his scoring line.
The loudest foul may have been a flagrant on Billups in the third quarter, dragging Conley from the air in a choke hold. At least until an array of technical fouls followed closely.
Memphis ran up a double-digit lead to deal with its foul problem. Conley, Randolph and Tayshaun Prince each had four fouls by the end of the third quarter. Gasol picked up his fifth in the opening seconds of the fourth.
The Clippers threw every possible lineup and every possible defense at the Grizzlies. Memphis’ lead was cut to eight with 6:01 to play and Gasol and Randolph both came in against a small Clippers lineup — Gasol with five fouls, Randolph with four. But it was Conley with a huge make from behind the arc to extend the lead to 106-67. Jerryd Bayless followed from deep on an assist from Conley. Los Angeles had scored seven straight before the Grizzlies went on an 8-2 run.