Right in front of the best seats in FedEx Forum, Montrezl Harrell spread talcum powder on the scorer’s table before scooping some and rubbing his hands together.
His mind was processing everything around him: the game, the score, the situation. And in an instant, that energy moved from his mind down through his right arm into a clenched fist.
Bam! He punched the scorer’s table. He was ready to go.
Harrell, one of the best bench players in the NBA this year, adopted that routine sometime last season and didn’t break from it Friday, pounding that table before pounding the Memphis Grizzlies in the Clippers’ 112-106 win.
“It’s about locking in,” Harrell said. “When I hit that table, my mind is focused. Boom. Game time.”
Harrell scored 30 points, tying his career high, in only 14 attempts from the field thanks to an eight-for-10 night from the line. It’s the sixth time this season he’s scored 25 or more, and the Clippers have won five of those games.
On the way to the shower after the game, guard Patrick Beverley teased Harrell about the two missed free throws, reminding him he could’ve had 32.
“I’m not going to apologize for wanting you to be great,” Beverley said on his way out.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 25 points and 10 assists and Joakim Noah came off the bench for 22 points and 11 rebounds. The Grizzlies were without rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., who could miss significant time with a deeply bruised quadriceps muscle.
The lead got trimmed to a dozen by halftime and after a disastrous third quarter, the Clippers trailed by three. A loss would be a bad way to start the final stretch of the season, the Clippers hanging on to one of the final spots in the Western Conference playoff race with the Sacramento Kings and the Lakers on their heels.
“You could see that we were desperate down the stretch,” coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s what we should be.”
The Clippers flipped into anything-it-takes mode in the final quarter. Harrell opened it by facing up, fumbling the ball during a between-the-legs dribble, regaining it and bouncing in a 17-foot jumper.
Danilo Gallinari ended a wild possession by grabbing a loose ball and colliding with former Clipper Avery Bradley. Knocked to the floor, Gallinari got up, a bruise below his left eye instantly forming. After trying to find some ice during a timeout, Gallinari stepped to the line and made a pair of free throws – he sank all eight of his attempts in the fourth and scored 10 straight points.
“I don’t look tough,” he said about the bruise. “I am tough.”
Lou Williams, usually the team’s fourth-quarter scoring ace, missed all but one of his five fourth-quarter shots. But he finished a team-best plus-13 in the fourth after recording all five of the team’s assists in the quarter.
And Beverley provided what he calls “the ‘it’ factor”, rising through the Memphis frontcourt for a key offensive rebound late in the game, extending a possession that ended with a three-point play for Harrell.
He punctuated his night with a powerful slam on the very next possession, helping seal the win while keeping the Clippers two games ahead of the Kings and three ahead of the Lakers.
“Playing hard is a skill, especially nowadays,” Beverley said. “We’ve been fortunate. Trez has been fortunate to kind of own that skill and bring it every night. What he does, you just have to give him a lot of credit.”