The stunned and battered Memphis Grizzlies had legitimate hopes
of going farther in the NBA playoffs than a year ago when they fell
to Oklahoma City in seven games in the Western Conference
semifinals is a distant memory.
Now with their egos bruised, they’re just focused on avoiding
elimination in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Memphis hosts the Clippers on Wednesday night in Game 5 still
trying to figure out how to stop Chris Paul and hoping to force
Game 6. It’s been every bit the rugged series expected with two
games decided by one point and Monday night’s 101-97 win by Los
Angeles in overtime.
Guard Mike Conley said the Grizzlies have to treat this as the
”It could be the last game for us,” Conley said. ”We’ve got
to give everything we got regardless if guys are happy, if guys are
not. You have got to play for one another and understand that
winning is all that matters at this point. It doesn’t matter how we
do it. It doesn’t matter who steps up or who doesn’t. We have to
The Clippers are on the verge of something special and very rare
for the franchise. The Clippers beat Denver in the first round in
2006, and one more win clinches only their second playoff series
since the Buffalo Braves relocated to California. Paul has plenty
of playoff experience while with New Orleans and knows well what
his current teammates face now.
”The close-out game is the toughest one, especially in their
place,” Paul said.
”I’m sure they’re excited to be going back home, and we’ve
showed the ability to win there. So we need to come out ready to
play because it’s going to be a difficult game there too obviously
with the crowd behind them. We got down early (Monday night), and
our crowd’s energy got us back into it. It’s not going to be that
way on the road.”
The Grizzlies had less than 1,000 tickets available Tuesday
night with the mantra ”Believe Memphis” applies not just to the
team but the entire town.
Still, with Paul and Griffin leading the way, the Clippers are a
”We have to take it one game at a time and understand that if
we go down there and we play our game and play together, we’re
going to have a great chance to close them out,” Clippers guard
Randy Foye said.
Both teams took Tuesday off, flying from Los Angeles to
This series has been a battle royale so far with the Clippers
picking up seven technical fouls and the Grizzlies six. Blake
Griffin estimates he’s racked up 5 1/2 fouls per game and said he
knows he must do better. Grizzlies guard Tony Allen says the
Clippers deserve credit for ”pretty much manhandling” the series
going up 3-1.
Paul has been a key, scoring eight of his 27 points in overtime
Monday night. Paul also got to the line where he hit all six of his
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said Tuesday he used the wrong word
after Monday night’s loss in saying that Paul flops when the
All-Star guard is simply too good at creating fouls. The Memphis
coach wants his Grizzlies to be smarter, stay poised and avoid
confrontations that result in technical fouls.
”We don’t need to be macho in those situations,” Hollins said.
”We need to go out and play and be macho and get the ball off the
glass and get the ball in the post and get the ball up the court
The Grizzlies were 3-1 a year ago in their opening series, lost
Game 5 and returned to Memphis where they closed out the series and
But Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol dominated last postseason,
taking control of the paint. In this series, the Clippers have been
so physical that Gasol has had few, if any, points, late in games
while Randolph often finds himself taking shots from outside late.
Gasol averaged a double-double last postseason, but the All-Star
center has had only one this series.
”Even when we’ve gotten the ball inside, there’s not a lot of
space to operate,” Hollins said. ”They just decide that they’re
going to come and try to take the ball out of their hands and make
us beat them from the outside. And we haven’t been able to do that
Only eight NBA teams have rallied to win a series trailing 3-1
with Phoenix over the Lakers in 2006 the last. Hollins was with
Philadelphia when Boston rallied over the 76ers in the 1981 Eastern
Conference finals. Hollins dismissed any talk of history.
”We have to win one game, that’s the game here at home before
us and that’s basically all we can worry about,” Hollins said.