Clippers Make it Three Wins in a Row
By Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times
So what if Rasual Butler hadn't made a single three-point shot through three quarters?
He has his own green light, and it always seems to be on.
Butler made two three-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second coming with 3:13 remaining, and the Clippers managed to hang on for a 113-110 victory against Memphis on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Suspense lingered until the end. The Grizzlies had a chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Rudy Gay's shot clanged off the rim, though replays did show that his foot was on the three-point line.
It was the Clippers' third straight victory after they opened the season with four consecutive losses.
"We were just trying to weather the storm," said Craig Smith, who came off the bench and had 18 points and five rebounds. "We didn't want to go 2-5."
Weathering the storm would be accurate. The Clippers were playing their second game in two nights -- as were the Grizzlies -- and their legs seemed weary.
"That was a big step for our team," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "When we started off, we didn't have a lot of energy. I thought having our starters sit out the fourth quarter last night, they would have more energy. They were a little flat, but our bench picked them up."
Memphis led by as much as 11 points in the first half, but the Clippers steadily chipped away with a variety of contributions.
Chris Kaman had his sixth consecutive game of 20 or more points, scoring 26 against the Grizzlies, one shy of his career high, which came a week ago. Kaman made eight of 16 shots and added nine rebounds.
Butler had 17 points and seven rebounds.
Then there was Smith.
Smith showed range that many didn't know he had in Minnesota, knocking down outside jumpers and doing his usual damage inside.
Guards Eric Gordon and Baron Davis combined for 30 points (15 each) and Gordon made three three-pointers.
Now the Clippers are within a game of climbing back to .500 after a miserable start to the season.
Friday's victory against the hapless Golden State Warriors represented evidence that much had turned around in the Clipper world, representing the start of something.
Winning by 28 points is headline-grabbing, but fighting through adversity and a lackluster first half to win against Memphis probably means more to the Clippers in the long run.
The Grizzlies (1-6) were led by a stirring performance from Gay, who had 33 points but made only one of six shots in the fourth quarter. Former Clipper Zach Randolph had 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Memphis, perhaps a bit lighter without the baggage of Allen Iverson, seemed poised to flatten the Clippers' momentum.
Dismayed with having to come off the bench, Iverson had a couple of meetings with the team's owner and then departed for his home in Atlanta to deal with personal issues.
It was rumored that Iverson, upset about having to come off the bench, may have played his last game in the NBA. At least the Clippers can be glad that Iverson isn't their problem.
Randolph spent much of the pregame session catching up with his old teammates and coaches and stepped into Dunleavy's office during his usual meeting with the media.
"Coach, what's up?" said a beaming Randolph.
If there was any bitterness or displeasure because of his trade from the Clippers in the summer to Memphis, none of those sentiments lingered, according to Randolph.
"What happened was they got the No. 1 pick," he said. "That's basketball. Me and the guy [Blake Griffin] play the same position. I've gotta play and of course he has to play. I'm sure if they wouldn't have got the No. 1 pick, I'd still be here. It's a business."