Feelings of fear had to be welling up in the stomachs of the Grizzlies and their fans Wednesday night as an worrying pattern repeated itself. As in Game 1, the Grizzlies developed a large lead on the LA Clippers through great defense and crisp offensive execution. And as in 1, they stopped doing those fantastic things, lost both their calmness and the higher part of that lead. This time, although, Memphis handled to hold on for an excruciating 92-80 win, closing Los Angeles’ series lead to 3-2.
Gasol has 23 points and Zach Randolph scored 19 as the Memphis Grizzlies avoided elimination by beating the Clippers on Wednesday night, forcing a Game 6 in the Western Conference first-round series.
Rudy Gay added 14 points for Memphis. Mo Williams had 20 points for the Clippers while Chris Paul scored 19 and Blake Griffin had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul suffered second-half injuries that may affect their statuses for Game 6. Griffin hyperextended his left knee, the same knee that required surgery treatment before the 2009-10 season. Griffin returned to the game in the 4th quarter, though.
The Grizzlies built the lion’s reveal of that lead and set the tone for the game’s first three quarters with a convincing 22-5 first-quarter run. Most of that run came on the backs of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies big men, who had been so instrumental in their team’s first-round upset of the Spurs last year, had been conspicuous mostly for their irrelevance to the series’ previous three games.
The Clippers closed the third quarter with a 14-2 run and got within six twice to conjure up thoughts of Memphis blowing a 27-point lead in Game 1. Foye pulled the Clippers within 85-79 on a layup with 55.7 seconds left. The Grizzlies led 57-42 at halftime and led by as many as 24 before the Clippers tried to make it interesting again.
This stretch of play also revealed a troubling weakness in the Grizzlies: Memphis does not have a true point guard backing up Conley. O.J. Mayo is the default replacement, and Mayo is nowhere near the ballhandler, playmaker or floor general that Conley is. The Clippers pressured Mayo relentlessly when he ran the point. Suddenly, Memphis was struggling to execute its offense. Twice, Paul took the ball from Mayo and initiated transition offense in the other direction.
Up by six with just 44.1 seconds left, Randolph hit a free throw. He missed the second, but Rudy Gay swooped in for the rebound and then glided to the basket for a layup that put the game away. It wasn’t the cleanest or most attractive win, but the series moves on to Los Angeles nonetheless. And the Grizzlies might even get some sleep tonight.
Game 6 is on Friday in LA. If the Grizzlies win, Game 7 will be on Sunday in Memphis. You can still puchase Tickets for the game.