A 35-point explosion from Chris Paul was mitigated by an injury-impacted performance from Blake Griffin as the Grizzlies held on for a 103-93 win in Los Angeles Tuesday night. The Grizzlies now take a 3-2 lead over the Clippers and will have a chance to close out the series in Memphis Friday night.
The Grizzlies led by eight points entering the fourth quarter, but with Marc Gasol sitting most of the quarter with five fouls and Griffin gone for good with an ankle sprain that limited him to 20 minutes on the night, the match-ups took on an unfamiliar look.
The Clippers went small, with Paul flanked by fellow guards Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford and small forward Matt Barnes shifting over the power forward. The Grizzlies responded, finally returning to the perimeter defense match-ups that had been so successful in Memphis but which the team had oddly avoided for most of this game: Quincy Pondexter on Paul, Mike Conley on Bledsoe, and Tony Allen on Crawford.
On the other end, it was forwards Zach Randolph and Tayshaun Prince who took the team home. Randolph has been good for most of the series, and surprisingly so at home. But this was different. This was a flashback to the spring of 2011, when Randolph polished off playoff games by setting up on the right block/wing and scoring repeatedly. Randolph scored 10 points on 5-6 shooting in the quarter.
But it was Prince, perhaps poetically, given the still existent catcalls about the Grizzlies missing Rudy Gay's late-game scoring, and whose offense had been MIA until Game 4, who ultimately kept a Clippers' comeback at bay. Three times, in the last five minutes, when the Clippers threatened, it was Prince who answered: A 21-footer when the Clippers drew to within seven. Then a cut and lay-up off a Randolph feed when the Clippers had pulled to within six. Finally, the clincher — a 27-foot elbow-extended three-pointer at the 1:29 mark, when the Clippers had cut the Grizzlies lead to five and the outcome seemed legitimately in doubt.
While Paul was searching for help — the other four Clipper starters combined for 17 points, and only sixth-man Jamal Crawford joined Paul in double-digits with 15 — the Grizzlies had four starters score between 15 and 25 and again got a strong joint effort from Randolph and Gasol, who have been contained only by fouls in this series.
Chris Paul will undoubtedly be ready for Friday night, back at FedExForum. But the rest of his team has questions to answer with their season on the line.