The Clippers couldn't complete a frantic comeback against their dreaded nemeses Monday night at Staples Center after Memphis' Mike Conley stole the ball from Chris Paul with 1.9 seconds left, preserving the Grizzlies' 90-87 victory.
The unhappy ending for the Clippers halted their four-game winning streak and dropped them to 4-2 since Griffin was sidelined with a staph infection that was surgical removed from his right elbow.
Paul was stellar with 30 points and 10 assists but would surely trade them in for a do-over in the final seconds. He was dribbling with the Clippers trailing, 88-87, when Conley reached in and knocked the ball away, prompting Barnes to foul Conley with 1.5 seconds left.
"If I was at home watching this game, I would say, 'This dummy didn't even get a shot up,'" Paul said of himself. "You at least have to give yourself a chance."
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers blamed his team for contributing to the turnover.
"It was a random play because we didn't have a timeout and it was a fastbreak for the most part," Rivers said, "but I thought our spacing was horrendous and I told our guys that after the game."
Partly frustrated, partly exhausted, Paul doubled over at the waist before Conley made both free throws to set the final score.
The Clippers (37-20) somehow had two chances to take the lead in the final minute despite trailing 88-80 after Lee's three-pointer with 2:28 remaining.
Paul made two free throws, J.J. Redick drained a three-pointer and Paul buried a 14-foot jumper to pull the Clippers to within 88-87 with 1:10 left. The crowd chanted "CP3!" during a timeout in tribute to the All-Star point guard.
Conley then had a jumper rattle out of the rim, but Paul missed a six-foot jumper with 37 seconds left and Zach Randolph grabbed the rebound. Randolph then missed a mid-range jumper and Redick snagged the rebound with 14 seconds to go.
Paul watched a replay of the final minute on a tablet in front of his locker after the game and said he missed an opportunity to pass to Spencer Hawes or Redick instead of taking the short jumper.
Rivers cited poor movement among his players as contributing to the defeat.
"I thought it was more of a dribble game for us, and I think that's the way Memphis wants us to play," Rivers said. "We didn't move today. We did a lot of standing around, a lot of isos."
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan had 17 rebounds to go with nine points, logging his fifth consecutive game with at least 15 rebounds. Shooting guard Jamal Crawford had 15 points for the Clippers, who will play the Grizzlies again Friday in Memphis.
Conley finished with 18 points and Jeff Green had 16 for the Grizzlies, who were playing for the second consecutive night after a narrow victory at Portland on Sunday.
Memphis took 26 free throws to 12 for the Clippers.