Grizzlies find their muscle in nick of time
Updated: 2012-05-11 07:49
The Memphis Grizzlies believe they finally played their grinding, bruising style of basketball in the playoffs.
Just in time too.
Marc Gasol scored 23 points and Zach Randolph added 19 as the Grizzlies avoided elimination by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 92-80 on Wednesday night, forcing a Game 6 in the Western Conference first-round series.
"We've had our backs against the wall. We still have them," said Gasol, who had his best game in this series. "We haven't done anything yet, and we want to take it back to LA and give them another big battle."
With Gasol and Randolph scoring early, the Grizzlies looked like the team that knocked off top-seeded San Antonio last spring and took Oklahoma City to seven games in the conference semifinals as they pulled within 3-2 in this series.
Game 6 is on Friday night in Los Angeles. If the Grizzlies can win, Game 7 would be on Sunday in Memphis. Not that the Clippers plan on returning to Tennessee again.
"Our Game 7's Friday," Clippers guard Mo Williams said.
The Grizzlies sound equally confident, feeling they should have won Games 1 and 3.
"There's no point leaving home if we don't know our way back," Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo said. "We can't look at Sunday because we have to make sure we get back home after Friday night."
Rudy Gay added 14 points for Memphis.
Williams had 20 points for the Clippers, while Chris Paul scored 19 and Blake Griffin had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Paul and Griffin both missed time in the fourth quarter with injuries.
The Clippers said Paul strained his right hip flexor, while the guard also appeared to jam a finger. Griffin hyperextended his left knee.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said both players were being evaluated after the game.
Paul almost single-handedly gave the Clippers a chance to close out this series by scoring eight of his 27 points in overtime of Game 4.
This time, the four-time All-Star guard had just five points by halftime and scored nothing in the fourth quarter. He was grimacing early in the fourth and was on the bench with the injured right groin. An injured groin kept him out of the Clippers' regular-season finale, a loss to New York that cost Los Angeles the No 4 seed.
The Clippers came in needing a win to clinch their first series since 2006 and advance to a second-round series against top-seeded San Antonio. But even though Paul has plenty of postseason experience, this was the first close-out game for the likes of Griffin, Randy Foye and DeAndre Jordan.
Los Angeles last led at 17-16 before a fastbreak layup by Tony Allen, which was set up by a long pass from Gasol, put Memphis ahead to stay at 18-17 with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
"We've got to do a better job keeping our composure a little bit," Del Negro said.
Associated Press in Memphis
(China Daily 05/11/2012 page24)