Grizzlies defeat limping Clippers, force Game 7
LOS ANGELES — The Memphis Grizzlies took advantage of the Los Angeles Clippers’ two ailing stars and forced the most thrilling series of the 2012 NBA Playoffs into a do-or-die Game 7.
In a 90-88 Game 6 win on Friday night at the Staples Center, the Grizzlies used big performances from big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to win their second straight game of the series, regain home-court advantage and bring the series back to Memphis.
“We just kept battling and made big plays,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said in his postgame press conference. “Marc got going, Zach got going and then we really started collapsing, closing down and did not give them anything.
“But all this means nothing, because this is a one-game series, and everyone has a chance to win.”
Game 7 is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the FedEx Forum.
“We’ve gotta win,” said Clippers guard Chris Paul, who was bothered by multiple injuries in Friday’s game. “This is it. We could lose Game 5 and Game 6 and still be OK, but Game 7′s going to be exciting.
“I can’t wait. You just leave it all out there and it is what it is.”
With Clippers forward Blake Griffin limited by a knee injury, Memphis dominated in the post all night. Gasol and Randolph combined for 41 points, 25 rebounds and four blocks.
Rudy Gay and Mike Conley each added 13 points for the Grizzlies.
For Los Angeles, Paul totaled just 11 points and seven assists in 35 minutes. Griffin had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds in 33 minutes. Reserve guard Eric Bledsoe starred in his 24 minutes on the court, scoring 14 points and adding six assists and a number of key defensive plays.
Paul and Griffin both started the game but were clearly bothered by their injuries in the early going.
Paul, nursing a jammed finger and strained hip flexor, didn’t score his first points until the 3:28 mark of the second quarter, when he converted a 21-footer on his third field goal attempt of the game. He followed that up with a three-pointer on the next possession and finished the half with six points, four assists and three rebounds.
“I thought he did not come out and attack,” Hollins said. “But once we got into the lead he started attacking, scoring and playing. As the game wore on, we just packed the lane whenever he came in. We just played harder than we have in previous games.”
Griffin, who sprained his left knee in the third quarter of Game 5 in Memphis, started quickly with two of the Clippers’ first three baskets but sat out much of the second quarter and had only six points and three rebounds before the break.
“Obviously, Chris and Blake were battling through as best as they could,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “You could see Blake was hobbling and Chris was tentative. … They were trying to pull it out. But we had to monitor their minutes a little bit.”
Instead, reserve forward Kenyon Martin picked up some of the scoring slack for the Clippers, with eight points in nine efficient first-half minutes. Bledsoe added six points, three assists and a couple of electrifying defensive plays.
Gasol was the focal point of Memphis’ early offense, scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half. He added seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end. Mike Conley hit two three-pointers and had seven points and five assists.
The Grizzlies shot far better from the field than L.A. in the first half — 46 percent compared to 37 — but 13 turnovers limited their offensive production. They led 42-38 at the break.
NOTES: With the 6 p.m. start and normal Friday traffic in Los Angeles, the Staples Center was far from packed at tip-off. But the game was still sold out and the arena filled out by the second quarter. … The Clippers curiously brought in a dance crew from Memphis — the Beale Street Flippers — for the Friday night halftime show. … Asked before the game about Griffin being booed in Memphis during Game 5, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said Griffin had only had himself to blame for it: “You make yourself the villain, that’s what happens.”