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Clippers react just in time against Memphis

They are almost too hospitable to the Grizzlies and have to rally from a 20-point deficit to win.

November 30, 2009|By Jim Peltz
  • Clippers forward Craig Smith, left, and guard Eric Gordon, right, trap Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo in the second half, when they rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat Memphis.
Clippers forward Craig Smith, left, and guard Eric Gordon, right, trap… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)

With the Clippers down 15 points to the Memphis Grizzlies after two quarters, Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy told his team that the Clippers were being far too accommodating a host at Staples Center.

"What I said at halftime was, 'Look, they're too comfortable out there,' " Dunleavy said of the Grizzlies, who had thoroughly dominated a Clippers team that looked flat-footed and uninspired.

But that all changed in the fourth quarter, when the Clippers finally turned aggressive, rallied to overcome a 20-point Memphis lead and beat the Grizzlies, 98-88, Sunday.

The stunning victory earned Dunleavy his 600th win and gave the Clippers four wins in their last five games.

The Clippers scored 22 consecutive points in the last five minutes of the game and outscored the Grizzlies, 33-7, in the final quarter, tying a Clippers franchise record for the fewest points given up in a quarter.

"Our guys stayed with it and never gave up," Dunleavy said. "All of a sudden we came together. I'm very proud of the guys."

The Clippers' counterattack in front of 14,854 was led by guards Eric Gordon and Baron Davis, and forwards Marcus Camby and Al Thornton.

But the players gave much of the credit to the scrappy defensive play of Gordon and Camby, including a key Gordon steal in the Clippers' late comeback, and Gordon's deft hand on offense.

Gordon, who led the Clippers' scoring with 29 points, returned to the lineup last week after sitting out eight games because of a strained groin.

"It's great to have Eric Gordon back," said Camby, who matched his 14 rebounds with 14 points. "You never know how much you miss a guy until he's out. He had a terrific game tonight, especially in the fourth quarter."

When the fourth quarter started, the game looked all but hopeless for the Clippers, who had split two prior games with Memphis this season.

The Grizzlies, who arrived in Los Angeles having won five of their previous seven games, jumped to an 11-2 lead and led by as many as 20 points during the third quarter.

"We let them get in a comfort zone," said Thornton, who finished with 18 points. "We just said we've got to turn our defense up. So in the fourth quarter we made them work for the shots.

"Marcus led the attack on defense with the blocked shots and, the way he was playing, everybody followed behind him."

Memphis' scoring was led by center Marc Gasol, brother of Lakers center Pau Gasol, who had 26 points but only five rebounds. Forward Rudy Gay scored 15 points for the Grizzlies.

Goodwill gesture

Clippers announcers Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith, who were suspended for one game this month for comments they made about Iranian player Hamed Haddadi, met with the Grizzlies backup center before Sunday's game.

The two announcers walked into the Memphis locker room and held a brief meeting with the 7-foot-2 Haddadi, who last season became the first Iranian to play in the NBA.

Lawler could be heard telling Haddadi that "you know we care about you," Smith told him that "we meant only the best," and Haddadi replied through an interpreter that he appreciated the gesture.

When Haddadi entered the teams' game Nov. 18, Lawler and Smith had a brief on-air exchange about the player in which they included, among other things, a reference to the fictional movie character Borat. After a Clippers season-ticker holder complained about the dialogue, Lawler and Smith were suspended.

"I reached out to Hamed through his manager a couple of days ago and they said they'd like very much to meet and say hello," Lawler said after their meeting.

"We were really trying to, like, welcome him into the league," Lawler said of the broadcast.

"It just came out awkwardly, was misinterpreted by some, so I just really appreciated the chance to meet with him. He's a good young man and it's quite an accomplishment to come from Iran to wind up being in the NBA."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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