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Once again Clippers/Grizzlies play it close. Once again Clips have too much Chris Paul.

May 8, 2012, 3:37 AM EDT

Blake Griffin, Chris Paul AP

Again it was physical and nasty game. Again it was close at the end. Again the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies fought like two evenly matched teams that just don’t like each other. This time it went all the way to overtime.

And Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said it was the same thing that was the difference in the end.

Chris Paul.”

He is right. Paul had eight of the Clippers’ 14 points in overtime — he would come off the high pick, go right at the Memphis big man, get him backpedaling, then pull up for an elbow jumper. He was the reason the Clippers won 101-97 and have a commanding 3-1 series lead heading to Memphis for Game 5.

“(Paul) made three straight jumpers, got to the basket, got fouled, I mean come on,” Hollins said. “Chris Paul won that game for them down the stretch.”

As he has all series. He has dominated late. CP3 has been the best player on the floor. But there were other keys for the Clippers as this team continues to learn how to win in the playoffs.

Los Angeles played its best defense of the series, holding Memphis to 43.4 percent shooting — and if you take away the Grizzlies’ 20 second-chance points (19 offensive rebounds), they shot just 41.8 percent. Or, look at it this way: Remove Mike Conley — who was fantastic with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting — and the rest of the Grizzlies shot just 38.8 percent. Or count their starting front of Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, who combined to 35 percent.

The Clippers defense cut off Grizzlies’ preferred angles, taking away clean passes to the post, and that threw the Memphis system off balance. When Gasol does not get the ball in his preferred spots, the Grizzlies’ offense can stall out and become isolation-heavy — he is key to their ball movement. But Gasol had just 4 shot attempts and 8 points all game. Gay tried to attack and find his spots and had 23 points but needed 25 shots to get there.

Meanwhile, a Blake Griffin that was more aggressive getting to his spots on the offensive end had 30 points on just 15 shots, plus 7 assists. It was his best game of the playoffs, while CP3 added 27.

Then there were good contributions from the Clippers bench again. Reggie Evans had a key offensive rebound off a missed Griffin shot in overtime to set up a CP3 bucket. Mo Williams had 9 points. Nick Young hit a key three — one Griffin assisted while sitting after slipping on a drive.

Despite all that, the Clippers could not pull away. In part because they shot only 33 percent for the second quarter and the front line of Memphis does not make anything easy, they are physical right back with the Clippers and were not getting their points. Conley was on fire and Memphis was scrappy. They fought back from 10 down and made it a game.

But in the end the Clippers had Chris Paul.

To a man after the game the Grizzlies said this series was not over — if they had not blown a 27 point lead in Game 1 the series would be tied. If they could find a way to stop Chris Paul.

“We are confident,” Rudy Gay said. “We’re a tough and resilient team. I think we can bounce back.”

“We’re going to try and shut down Chris Paul a little bit,” Hollins said. “He’s the problem and we’ve got to solve the problem.”

Chris Paul has won just one playoff closeout game in his NBA career — he has only once advanced to the second round. It’s going to be hard to get that win Wednesday night in Memphis. These Clippers are not young but they are young as a core being together and they are figuring things out still. These Clippers are still learning to win as a team.

But they are making a pretty quick study of it.

  1. abchome - May 8, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    The most dangerous team turns to be the most overrated team…

    • edweird0 - May 8, 2012 at 3:49 AM

      How can you say that? Their three wins are by less than 8 pts or something like that and if I’m not mistaken this has been the Clippers largest margin of victory all series. You clearly haven’t been watching this series if you’re calling the grizzlies overrated.

      • therealroman - May 8, 2012 at 3:15 PM

        absolutely, Clippers won game 1 & 3 by only 1 point. memphis is a real good team and they’re playing hard, but i feel like LAC is surprising many people right now. over-rated, over-hyped, only showboating…but they are actually a deep team with an IMPRESSIVE (can’t underline that enough) leader. paul is playing on another level, CP3, lebron and Tony Parker are the guys in these playoffs right now that no one has an answer for. give everyone on this roster credit though, they’re playing intense team- defense, guys are hitting big shots (m. williams, nick young), foye and bledsoe are decent on both sides of the floor, reggie evans is a monster, blake is playing hard-headed and efficient, k.martin is big for them as another experienced leader, jordan is an obvious presence down low and butler is playing with a friggin broken hand!!! i like this team (if they would only stop flopping so much), they’re playing all out and all of their games are fun to watch. tip of the hat!

      • sellahh - May 8, 2012 at 5:20 PM

        I don’t like the Clippers.
        I like what you said.
        ‘cept for one thing, DeAndre is no presence down low, he’s a bad rebounder for his size and athleticism, has no offensive game, shoots FTs worse than Dr Shaq and is a very average help defender. How did he get around 10 mln a year? Anyone?
        Lockout? LOL

      • abchome - May 9, 2012 at 12:01 AM

        I watched all 4 games live. And I actually watched them again on replay. If Gasol could play like half an AllStar center, or Gay could play like half a maximum salary player, or Rondolph could play like half the dominant force last year, or Allen could play like half a defensive stopper people touted, or Hollins could adjust like half a coach 4th in COY votes, the Grizzlies should be 4-0 awaiting a rematch with Spurs. But no, none of those happened. Instead they collapsed twice, lost a close and hard fought one, and are on the blink of elimination.

  2. moseskkim - May 8, 2012 at 3:44 AM

    Was at staples to watch Paul’s masterpiece. he is the conductor and the orchestra. I wish he’d score more. He is just so good. Eric Bledsoe is growing up and griffin looked real confident tonight. Coach vinny has to be given some credit. He’s rolling the right lineups. Sometimes foye, some mo, some ebled, nick young.. I can’t believe clipps are up 3-1. This series is no way over though. Could easily be 3-1 Memphis.

  3. edweird0 - May 8, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    I totally called this happening after they lost to the Grizzlies. I knew CP3 would take over this series, it was bound to happen. That little dude is gunna will the clippers to the WCF.

  4. mungman69 - May 8, 2012 at 4:32 AM

    Give the Clippers’ coach some credit. The Clippers have had a lot of injuries.

  5. lakerade - May 8, 2012 at 4:44 AM

    Best guy in this series is david stern. Watch out SAS, dont think he’s forgotten the lowest rated Finals yall were in.

  6. slumdog66 - May 8, 2012 at 4:48 AM

    Cp3 proved tonight that he IS the best closer in the game today. Go cry somewhere else lakerade or haterade or whatever your whiny a** goes by

    • sellahh - May 8, 2012 at 4:59 AM

      1 game proves nothing. Well, unless you’re talking about the best flopper awards.

  7. sellahh - May 8, 2012 at 5:04 AM

    The amount of flops in this game was ridiculous. Blake was acting like he was getting murdered every time someone touched him in the post and CP3 wasn’t far behind.

    • obijuan13 - May 8, 2012 at 2:58 PM

      I still think there should be an ESPY called, The Vlade Divac Award for Best Actor in an NBA game. And the Vlade goes to…..

      • sellahh - May 8, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        …Blake Griffin, cause who else? Tho i’ve gotta admit, CP3 is a great competitor and he’s a close runner-up.

  8. slumdog66 - May 8, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    You obviously haven’t watched them play much this year if you haven’t seen how many games he’s closed out this year. It was pretty obvious actually….

  9. lameasish - May 8, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    Lots of Blake and cp3 flops, yet they will get a free pass unlike some other players in the league.

  10. techron03 - May 8, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Clippers don’t flop. The grizzlies are just sloppy

  11. mat9844 - May 8, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    The Clips have the heart and soul to go the distance (and the beards) ~ and we fans are loving it!

    • sellahh - May 8, 2012 at 4:52 PM

      I don’t quite believe they do, sir. CP3 is a hell of a player (and a flopper, too) and Griffin can put up numbers, but it’s not every game that ur superstar is gonna nail 2 or was it 3 straight midrange jumpers in crunchtime.
      Not every game will ur opponent’s great frontline have such a bad game (Rudy shot like 30%, ZBo was kinda invisible and Gasol got outrebounded by Jordan and 5-foot-3 Reggie Evans for God’s sake).
      Yeah, yeah, every game is different, that one is true. But the Clippers needed a 27-point comeback and what seemed to me… a very floppy and quite a fluke game 5 to take a 3-1 lead.
      Talk about Dallas last year which had a few of these games… I still don’t see LAC going the distance, other than the 2nd round.
      And I’d be very glad with them finishing their playoff journey on round 1 so let’s go Grizz.

  12. thisisether - May 8, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    The grizzlies are one 27 point comeback from being tied 2-2.. How can you say they are overrated???

  13. mclayton31 - May 9, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Don’t get me wrong, cp3 is a great player. But all of that flopping kind of takes away from his brilliance.

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