Banged-up Clippers get 2nd chance to finish Griz

The stubborn Memphis Grizzlies aren’t the only obstacles in the

Los Angeles Clippers’ path to closing out a rare playoff series

victory. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are banged-up heading into

Game 6, and Caron Butler continues to play with a broken left

hand.

The Clippers said Thursday that Griffin and Paul would be

game-time decisions on Friday night, although the All-Star duo

figures to play with so much on the line.

The Clippers could have earned some much-needed rest with a win

in Game 5 Wednesday night. Instead, they lost 92-80, forcing the

series back home to Staples Center with a second chance to clinch

just the third playoff series win in franchise history on

Friday.

”It gives us a lot of confidence going back home,” center

DeAndre Jordan said. ”We won our last two at home, so we’ll just

try to go home and feed off our home crowd.”

Griffin had an MRI on his sprained left knee Thursday, when the

Clippers didn’t practice. The team said it confirmed there was no

structural damage. He got hurt in the third quarter, but returned

to play. Paul strained his right hip flexor in the fourth quarter,

but returned, too. He also has a jammed middle finger, but he says

he plans to play Friday.

That’s good news for the Clippers, since Paul has been the

catalyst in leading them to three narrow victories against the

Grizzlies. Butler got hurt in Game 1 and was believed to be done

for the rest of the playoffs, but has continued to be a

presence.

”They’ve made more plays than us,” Memphis coach Lionel

Hollins said Thursday before boarding a flight to Los Angeles. ”I

mean the little kid Chris Paul has done a great job of finishing

games and that’s really been the difference in all those games that

we have lost. We did a good job getting ahead of them last night

and the one other win we had here, and we’ve got to do that when we

go out to L.A.”

The Clippers lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. They last won a

playoff series in 2006, and before that they have to go all the way

back to 1976, when the franchise was called the Buffalo Braves, for

their only other series victory.

Closing out the Grizzlies would be a defining moment for a

Clippers franchise that is still working to overcome its reputation

as the laughingstock of the NBA. Griffin and Paul’s performances

this season have gone a long way toward making everyone forget the

team’s bad old days, but actually moving on to the next round would

be the validation the Clippers have long sought.

”We know how big of a game it is,” second-year coach Vinny Del

Negro said. ”It’s great to be in this situation, and we have to

handle it the right way, hopefully.”

The Clippers didn’t handle their emotions Wednesday night,

drawing five technical fouls to one for the Grizzlies.

”We’ve got to do a better job of keeping our composure a little

bit,” Del Negro said, ”but we’re just trying to scramble and

battle and try to get ourselves some type of rhythm to get back

into the game.”

Memphis lost both regular-season games at Staples, along with

Games 3 and 4 there. The Grizzlies will be bucking NBA history

again on Friday. Only eight teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit

to claim a series. If they win, Game 7 would be Sunday in

Memphis.

”If we can win a quarter at a time, I think the odds are in our

favor,” Tony Allen said.

Top-seeded San Antonio awaits the winner in the Western

Conference semifinals.

The Grizzlies dominated the paint and the boards in winning

Wednesday. They’ll look to work their inside-out game featuring

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph again Friday. Those two led Memphis in

scoring and banging in the paint in Game 5.

But the Grizzlies faltered in the second half, when they scored

just 35 points after totaling 57 in the first half. The Clippers

rallied to twice get within six points.

”Everybody’s got to execute better,” Hollins said. ”We were

out of position three or four times, we’re trying to run plays and

one or two guys are thinking it’s a different play. We have to be

on the same page and have poise and confidence.”

AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Memphis, Tenn., contributed

to this report.