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Clippers upend Memphis in battle of wanna be contenders

Jan 27, 2012, 4:15 AM EST

Chris Paul AP

It wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ll ever see.

No, I’m not talking about the ABA throwback uniforms…. well, those too. But I meant the game.

Doesn’t matter, the Clippers will take it. In a battle of teams trying to ascend to contender status, the Clippers executed better down the stretch and won 98-91. Nobody with the Thunder watched this game and felt nervous about a potential playoff matchup — nobody was taking a step up the contender ladder Thursday — but after losing to the Lakers because they got out-executed late the night before the Clippers turned the tables on the Grizzlies. That’s something for a growing team.

But really, we know why you were watching this game.

Los Angeles raced out to a quick double-digit lead but when Memphis stepped up the defensive pressure the Clippers turned the ball over (13 times in the first half) and that spurred some easy buckets to fuel a Grizzlies comeback. The game would be close the rest of the way.

Memphis needs those turnovers and runouts to really be efficient. However the Clippers tightened it up in the second half and only committed three turnovers, which slowed the Memphis attack. Marc Gasol had a good game, both scoring (18 points) and as a passer out of the post to cutters. But it wasn’t enough.

In the half court, both of these teams can be hard to watch. The Clippers are simplistic and predictable, but get away with it because Chris Paul is so special in the pick-and-roll — and they have so many athletes around him — that it just works.

Mo Williams had nine points in the fourth quarter, but in a key moment late the Clippers actually went away from the pick-and-roll (all that their offense seems to be for long stretches) and moved the ball from strong to weak, which opened a hole where Caron Butler was able to drive on the shifting Grizzlies defense and get points.

Rudy Gay had a game-high 24 points but he also had six turnovers, including a late strip by Butler and Chris Paul that sealed the game.

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