Things changed considerably in the first quarter Saturday night when
What was left of the Grizzlies fought gamely before ultimately succumbing to the Clippers, 94-86, at Staples Center after a fourth-quarter flourish by Chris Paul.
The point guard scored five consecutive points on a three-pointer and a mid-range jumper, helping the Clippers avoid a potentially deflating defeat while delighting team owner Steve Ballmer in his courtside seat.
"We just had to grit and grind a little bit," Clippers shooting guard
The Clippers (54-26) moved into a three-way tie with the Grizzlies and
The Clippers hold a tiebreaker with San Antonio by virtue of having a better record against West opponents, provided the Spurs do not win their division.
"I guess it's more confusing now," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers joked of the playoff picture. "When you figure it out, let me know."
Paul finished with 15 points and 14 assists and Blake Griffin and Redick added 18 points apiece for the Clippers. Center
The crowd roared in appreciation of Jordan's free throws several hours after Clippers forward
"Big Game 2nite!," Barnes wrote. "It's almost that time of year. WE NEED OUR CROWD MORE THAN EVER, let's make Staple [sic] Center the BEST HOME COURT THIS YEAR IN THE PLAYOFFS!! That means Yall are gonna [have] to get off your phones, stop talking to the person [next] to you & actually stand up & cheer!!"
The Clippers had some extra help on their bench after signing veteran guard Lester Hudson before the game to a contract that includes a partial guarantee for next season.
The chippy play that seems a given when these teams meet materialized in the third quarter when Griffin appeared to be pulled down on top of Memphis center
"We probably lead the league in double technicals between franchises," Griffin deadpanned.
Zach Randolph finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis, which was playing for the second time in two days after having defeated Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday night.
"That's not the team that will be there in the playoffs," Paul said of the Grizzlies, "but we couldn't do anything about it. We had to play our game."