The Clippers didn’t have to wait long for a do-over.
Only four days after suffering an excruciating loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Chris Paul and the Clippers can put the disappointment behind them Friday at FedEx Forum in the quickie rematch.
The enduring image from the Grizzlies’ 90-87 victory over the Clippers on Monday at Staples Center was Paul bent over at the waist in frustration and fatigue after Mike Conley poked the ball away for a steal with 1.9 seconds left. Conley went on to make two free throws and the Clippers suffered a second defeat in two games this season against perhaps their most hated rival.
Paul played a nearly flawless game before the final seconds, finishing with 30 points and 10 rebounds, though he described himself as “a dummy” afterward for his failure to take a shot that could have given the Clippers the lead.
On the plus side, the Clippers were not overwhelmed by the interior tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph even with All-Star forward Blake Griffin sidelined while recovering from elbow surgery.
Gasol had 14 points and Randolph seven after he made only two of 12 shots.
“It was a team effort,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said of limiting Randolph. “I just tried to make it tough for him playing with length and [Matt] Barnes, C.P., J.J. [Redick] were there making it tough for him as well.”
The Clippers have added incentive to beat Memphis because a loss would move them closer to the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings. The likely first-round playoff opponent for the team that finishes seventh?
That’s right, the Grizzlies.
A hairy situation
It was a moment to store in the mental vault and pull out next month when the Clippers and Houston Rockets meet again at Staples Center in a nationally televised game.
The Clippers’ Paul was defending James Harden with less than a minute left Wednesday night when Paul reached across the Rockets guard’s body and appeared to hit Harden’s arm.
Harden reacted forcefully, prompting Paul to mimic Harden’s response as if Paul was trying to show officials that Harden was flopping on a play that resulted in a foul on Paul. Harden then stepped toward Paul, talking angrily as he moved his famed beard to within inches of Paul’s face.
It was a play that could be a flash point in the rivalry between the Clippers and Rockets.
“I don’t remember,” Paul said after the Clippers’ 110-105 loss when asked about the exchange. “I’d have to watch the film.”
Jamal Crawford endured a two-month shooting slump before the trade deadline, making more than half of his shots only twice in 33 games. Then the shooting guard learned Feb. 19 that he would remain with the Clippers for the rest of the season.
He has made more than 50% of his shots three times in the four games since, perhaps shedding the mental burden of continually wondering about his status as he tries to win an unprecedented third sixth man of the year award.
Included in his recent performances have been an array of circus shots such as rainbow three-pointers while falling down and crossover dribbles leading to drives to the basket.
Not that those plays are anything special to Crawford.
“Ever since I was younger, those shots I think are difficult for other people — I’m not trying to brag at all — but I don’t think they’re that difficult,” Crawford said. “Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t, but I’m comfortable taking them.”
CLIPPERS VS. MEMPHIS
When: 5 p.m. PST, Friday.
Where: FedEx Forum.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 37-21; Grizzlies 41-15.
Record vs. Grizzlies: 0-2.
Update: Memphis won two of four games on a trip that included a victory over the Clippers but ended Wednesday with a surprising 102-90 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Grizzlies starters Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Courtney Lee combined to make only 12 of 35 shots in that defeat.