Griffin scores 31 to power Clippers
The Clippers pulled their usual Jekyll and Hyde act, blowing most of a big lead before hanging on at the end. Blake Griffin never wavered though, closing his spectacular rookie season with a triple-double.
He had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help the Clippers beat the playoff-bound Memphis Grizzlies 110-103 on Wednesday night.
"It actually just hit me, it's over," said Griffin, who made the All-Star team and won the league's dunk contest. "I don't know what I'm going to do with myself, but yeah, you just kind of exhale."
Griffin sat out all 82 games last season after hurting his knee in the final preseason game and having surgery. He was the only player to appear in every game this season when injuries plagued the team.
"Very meaningful," he said about reaching one of his goals. "I feel all right. I'm obviously not the same as at the beginning of the season, but I still feel like I could play, so that's promising."
Eric Gordon added 24 points and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who led all the way in ending a three-game skid but finished 32-50 to miss the playoffs again.
"We beat a lot of good teams," Gordon said. "All we can do is look forward to next season."
Sam Young led six players in double figures with 22 points and Greivis Vasquez added 17 as the Grizzlies rested starters Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph in anticipation of their first playoff berth since 2005-06.
"We've already talked about the playoffs and preparation and getting ready for the playoffs," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "This game meant nothing."
The loss cost them the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They fell to eighth and will open against top-seeded San Antonio, which won 61 games, second-best in the NBA. New Orleans, which lost to Dallas on the final night of the regular season, wound up seventh.
"We were going to start Game 1 on the road so at that point, it's semantics," said Shane Battier, who had 13 points. "You're going to play a really good team so we wanted to play well tonight, feel good about ourselves and try to get a little bit of momentum with guys resting."
The Grizzlies closed within five on Young' 3-pointer with 4:18 to play. Griffin answered with a three-point play and Gordon made a layup to keep the Clippers in front, 105-95.
O.J. Mayo and Vasquez hit 3-pointers that cut the Clippers' lead to four with 33 seconds left. Griffin won a jump ball, but then had it stolen by Hamed Haddadi. After a timeout, Mayo missed a 3-pointer before Memphis called its final timeout.
Randy Foye intercepted Vasquez's inbounds pass, got fouled and made both free throws with 5 seconds left to preserve the win.
"That's pretty much a microcosm of our season," first-year Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "In the first half, we were energetic and moving the ball and then we started looking at the scoreboard and stopped trying to make the extra pass. We gave up a big lead but we were able to gut it out."
Griffin put on one final show for Clipper Nation, dunking with abandon and showing off the flashy moves that are expected to win him rookie of the year honors.
Griffin had 10 of his team's first 11 points while Los Angeles held Memphis scoreless to open the game. The Clippers led by 16 points in the quarter, when they shot 64 percent from the floor and 62 percent from the line. They held the Grizzlies to 4 of 18 shooting.
The Clippers were even better in the second quarter, when they shot 70 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the free throw line while building a 29-point lead. They closed the quarter on a 17-2 run, highlighted by Griffin's one-handed dunk off Bledsoe's alley oop pass that had the crowd exploding in cheers.
"We were embarrassed by our effort in the first half," Battier said.
Gordon's 3-pointer early in the third extended the Clippers' lead to 30. Memphis outscored them 16-8 to close to 18 going into the fourth.
Notes: Clippers F Craig Smith was ejected after receiving a flagrant-1 foul and double technicals late in the third. ... Grizzlies F Leon Powe was ejected just before halftime after picking up his second technical of the game. ... Clippers C Chris Kaman missed his 50th game because of a sprained right knee, while F Ryan Gomes missed his sixth with a sore left knee. ... F Rudy Gay, G Xavier Henry and G Jason Williams were inactive for Memphis. ... The teams split the season series, although the Clippers remain one of just four teams with an overall losing record (30-32) against the Grizzlies. ... Griffin thanked the team's 18th sellout crowd before tipoff, telling them, "It was a fun year and we can't wait until next year. This is just the beginning." ... Kim Hughes, fired as Clippers interim coach last April, attended the game.