It has not been easy for the Memphis Grizzlies, living with the memory of blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead in Game 1 of their series against the Los Angeles Clippers. That heart-breaking defeat twice helped put them on the brink of elimination from the playoffs.
They staved off extinction with a win in Game 5 at home. And Friday night, well, it was the Grizzlies who made a fourth-quarter comeback. It was not as dramatic as the Clippers’, but it was just as significant.
The Grizzlies, down by eight in the final 12 minutes, came back to earn a 90-88 victory, evening the series at 3-3 and forcing a series-deciding Game 7 on Sunday back in Memphis.
“This one has to hurt,” said guard Chris Paul, who had 11 points and five assists, playing with hip flexor. “If it doesn’t hurt, it means you don’t care.”
Blake Griffin of the Clippers played with a sprained knee that limited his mobility. Griffin and his fellow big men were outplayed by Memphis’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who had 13 and 18 point respectively.
“I didn’t know (Griffin) was hurt,” Randolph said. “Everybody’s hurting. My knee is hurting. I ain’t looking for no excuse. You got to put that in the back and keep playing.”
Gasol’s brother, Pau of the Lakers, plays at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Saturday in Game 7 the Lakers-Denver series. Marc Gasol said the team’s emphasis Friday night was not on offense.
“We were very focused on our task defensively and that’s a big reason we won,” Gasol said. “We were way more disciplined. The whole team is doing a better job of finding me in the post.”
Griffin scored 17 points despite a sprained left knee that limited his jumping ability, and guard Eric Bledsoe added 14 off the bench. But productivity from other players was limited.
“Right now is not the time to start pointing the finger,” Griffin said.
nly eight teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series. Top-seeded San Antonio awaits the winner in the conference semifinals.
The Clippers are seeking just the third playoff series win in franchise history. “It’s uncharted territory for us as a team,” Clippers second-year coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We got to stay together, battle through it and give our best effort of the season.”
After being down by eight, Memphis went on a 17-4 run, including 10 straight points, to take an 85-80 lead. Gay scored five in a row as the Clippers missed and Randolph came up with a big block. Mike Conley hit a 3-pointer and Randolph tipped in the ball to close out the spurt. Down the stretch, the Grizzlies hit enough free throws to keep the Clippers at bay.
“We stuck together and finished the game,” Randolph said. “That’s what coach has been preaching.”
Only eight teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series. Top-seeded San Antonio awaits the winner in the conference semifinals.