Chris Paul did it again, this time being that big-time closer on the biggest stage.
Paul scored on a running four-foot bank shot with Tony Allen all over him with 0.1 of a second left Monday, giving the Clippers a stunning 93-91 victory over the shell-shocked Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at Staples Center.
Paul scored the Clippers’ final eight points, 24 in all, in helping the Clippers take a two-games-to-zero lead over the Grizzlies in the best-of-seven series.
“Tony played as good a defense as you could have,” Paul said. “I looked up to the clock and thought to myself, ‘I better get a shot off.’ So I just tried to attack. Luckily, I made the shot.”
With so little time left on the clock, all Memphis could do was throw the ball inbounds for a lob that didn’t work.
“Chris has done this his whole career, especially since he’s been here the last couple of seasons,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I have incredible confidence in him at the end of games.”
Game 3 will be in Memphis on Thursday night and Game 4 is also in Memphis on Saturday.
Blake Griffin had 21 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers and Jamal Crawford had 15 points off the bench.
Mike Conley had 28 points and nine assists for Memphis.
Conley’s pass to Marc Gasol (17 points, seven rebounds) help the Grizzlies tie the score at 91-91 with 13.9 seconds left.
But Paul made sure the Clippers didn’t blow a 12-point lead they had built in the fourth quarter behind the play of their bench.
The group of Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Ronny Turiaf helped the Clippers open an 83-71 lead, their biggest of the game.
Bledsoe opened the quarter with a basket. Odom then got a defensive rebound and passed ahead to a streaking Barnes, who was fouled.
Barnes made both free throws.
Then Odom blocked a shot by Zach Randolph. Odom eventually got the ball back and made a pass to Bledsoe, who made a back-door cut for a two-handed dunk that forced the Grizzlies to call a timeout with 10:45 left.
Griffin leaped off the bench and was the first to hug Odom.
A few seconds later, Barnes scored to complete an 8-0 Clippers run.
But the Grizzlies did not fold.
They tied the score at 89-89 on a Darrell Arthur dunk and free throw after a foul by Odom. Arthur finished the three-point play with 1:37 left.
With 5:54 left in the third quarter, Griffin and Randolph were called for their first double fouls of the game. That gave both of them three fouls.
Both also were called for double fouls in Game 1, too, so this was nothing new for either Griffin or Randolph.
But Randolph picked up his fourth foul 10 seconds later and was forced to take a seat on the bench. He picked up his fifth foul with 4:34 left, forcing Randolph to leave the game again.
Memphis starting guards Conley and Tony Allen combined for 20 points in the first game.
They both were so much better in the second game, giving the Clippers’ backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups all they could handle.
Conley and Allen (16 points ) combined for 44 points this time.
Both teams were offensive-minded in the first quarter, seemingly paying little attention to defense.
The Grizzlies started strong, opening a six-point lead, running their offense efficiently.
But by the end of the first quarter, the Clippers had run down the Grizzlies to tie the score at 26-26. The Clippers led, 50-44, at halftime.