LOS ANGELES-Tough. Tough. Tough. That’s the brand that’s been associated with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Los Angeles Clippers are all too familiar with just how gritty and nose-to-the-grind team the Grizzlies are having gone through two brutal playoff series with the mid-western city in the postseason in two of their last three playoff appearances.
Even without three starters in Saturday night encounter with their Western Conference foe, the Clippers discovered yet again just how solid this team is. Minus center Marc Gasol, last season’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year, guard Mike Conley Jr. and defensive specialist Tony Allen, the Grizzlies battled back from one deficit to another to find themsleves in a close game until the Clippers put the finishing touches on a 94-86 win at Staples Center.
The win was just what the doctor ordered for the Clippers, looking to lock down home court advantage when the playoffs begin. Much like all the other times they have faced the Grizzlies, this contest saw the Clippers grind and scratched their way to the team’s 54th win of the season. If the game was a test of wills the Clippers won the battle. This time.
The Clippers needed every ounce of energy from all their key players to stay in the hunt for the Western Conference No. 2 playoff seed. Every time the Clippers looked as if they were going to pull away from Memphis, the Grizzlies would then go a mini-roll to either tie or exchange leads with their Pacific Division rivals.
It’s a good thing that Doc Rivers’ team has the fortitude and determination to fight through a tough game like this one. And it was an all-around performance by the team that earned the Clippers another home win. DeAndre Jordan, making another case for defensive player of the year, scored 16 points and pulled down 16 rebounds and made Memphis power forward/center Zach Randolph’s life miserable.
Yeah, you can point out that Randolph scored 21 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. But this wasn’t the dominant Randolph that we’re used to seeing. That’s because Jordan’s length seemed to bother Randolph from doing what he normally does and that’s set up shop in the paint and outwork his opponents. Jordan wasn’t having of it as he smothered Randolph’s inside game and basically took away his mid-range jumper.
The Clippers won the game by outscoring the Grizzlies 25-18 in the fourth and final period. Blake Griffin scored 18 points in his lead starring role, while Chris Paul became the team’s leading facilitator, dropping 14 dimes and scoring 15 points. J.J. Redick continues to be red-hot as he shot 50 percent from the field to share Griffin’s team-high of 18 points.
The big and most welcoming surprise of the night was Jordan hitting six of his 10 free throws against the Grizzlies, including going clutch on a couple of charity giveaways late in the fourth quarter. That’s going to be a huge determinant factor for the Clippers’ title aspirations. But for right now the Clippers just want to savior this win.