Clippers advance with 82-72 win over Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Kenyon Martin scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Clippers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals with an 82-72 win Sunday over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7.
The Clippers won only their third postseason series in 41 years and just their second since relocating to Los Angeles. They also avoided becoming the ninth NBA team to blow a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series. The Clippers move on to play the top-seeded Spurs starting Tuesday night in San Antonio.
Chris Paul scored 19 points despite playing with a strained right hip flexor. Nick Young added 13 off the bench as the Clippers finished off the series with their biggest margin of victory.
Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol each had 19 for Memphis. Zach Randolph had a game-high 12 rebounds.
A year ago, the Grizzlies lost a Game 7 at Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs.
The Clippers, who trailed 56-55 after three quarters, took control by opening the fourth with an 11-2 run started by a jumper by Martin. He tipped in a shot for a 66-58 lead with 8:41 left. Mo Williams matched the Clippers’ biggest lead to that point at 10 with a 3-pointer pushing it to 71-61 with 7:04 left in a 16-5 spurt to open the quarter.
Los Angeles finished off the win by hitting 9 of 10 free throws in the final 3:26. The Clippers also managed to outrebound the Grizzlies 46-44.
The home-court advantage that didn’t help the Grizzlies when they blew a 27-point lead in Game 1 didn’t help again Sunday as they went cold from the floor. Gasol’s one-handed dunk with 3:09 left was Memphis’ last field goal down the stretch as the Grizzlies hit only 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter and finished the game missing all 13 3-pointers.
This series has been physical and grinding from the opening tip, and neither team backed down in a winner-take-all game.
The Clippers and Grizzlies scrapped and fought for every ball with each possession feeling like a knockdown, drag-out fight. Memphis should have had an advantage against the hobbled Clippers tipping off when they usually eat breakfast on the West Coast. Blake Griffin scored only eight points and looked tentative most of the game with a sprained left knee.
The Grizzlies even brought out wrestler Jerry Lawler to help stoke up the sold-out crowd, but both teams started out showing the fatigue of a quick turnaround from Game 6 on Friday night in Los Angeles. The Clippers missed nine of their first 10 shots, while the Grizzlies missed seven of their first nine. Memphis had won two straight with strong first quarters from Gasol and Randolph, and the duo had just a bucket apiece in the first 12 minutes Sunday.
The Clippers shook off the exhaustion and got plenty of help from the bench again, which outscored Memphis 41-11.
The Grizzlies managed to pull within 39-38 at halftime even though they kept struggling to find the basket. Mike Conley missed his first seven shots with his drought stretching to the free throw line where he missed his first attempt. Conley didn’t hit his first bucket until a jumper in the early seconds of the third quarter. Conley finished with seven points on 2 of 13 shooting.
Notes: Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro lost his first Game 7 in the 2009 first-round while coaching Chicago against Boston. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins now is 0-2 in Game 7s. … Griffin finished playing 28 minutes and was 3 of 11 from the floor. He had four rebounds.