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Clippers win a wild one

Despite free-throw woes, they hold off Grizzlies, 87-86, to take a 2-1 series lead.

May 05, 2012|By Broderick Turner

A sea of red-clad Clippers fans watched their team play a home playoff game for the first time since 2006, and they were taken on a wild ride that was exhausting and exhilarating.

They watched a Game 3 that seemed to be won by the Clippers, lost by them, then won again, and then came down to a last-second shot that had the entire Staples Center rocking Saturday afternoon.

When the crazy ride had come to an end, when the Clippers had finished standing up to the physical Memphis Grizzlies, when they had finished being miserable at the free-throw line, and when they had finished riding the coattails of Chris Paul again, Los Angeles escaped with an 87-86 victory only after Rudy Gay missed a final shot attempt.

"It was a tough game," said Paul, who scored seven of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter. "Playing them as many times as we have played them, they are never going to give up. When you have an electrifying scorer in Rudy Gay, you are definitely never out of a game. We just came in, put our hard hats on and we kept fighting."

And because of all that, L.A. has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes here Monday night.

The Clippers got a big boost when Caron Butler played with a fractured left hand that was supposed to sideline him four to six weeks. But he gave the Clippers 22 minutes and four points.

The Clippers got some big play out of Blake Griffin, who had 17 points, including a dunk for an 84-80 lead.

The Clippers got their typical hustle from Reggie Evans, who had 11 rebounds and played more down and dirty defense, making sure his team matched Memphis' physical play.

"That's their 'M.O' ... being aggressive and their whole 'Grit and Grind' thing," Griffin said. "So we've got to be the team that beats them at that."

And apparently the Clippers did.

"We're supposed to have a physical team," said Gay, who had 24 points. "They took that away from us today. They pushed us. They did all the things that we usually do to teams.

"It didn't surprise me. They have the capabilities to do it. They just came out there and really imposed their will tonight."

The Clippers led by 13 points in the second quarter, went down by eight in the third and then roared back for a six-point lead with 23 seconds left.

But they couldn't make their free throws, going 13 for 30 for the game. Eric Bledsoe missed three of the last four, the last two with 8.9 seconds left with the Clippers leading, 87-86.

"Man, I just blew them," Bledsoe said.

Gay, who had made two three-pointers during that span of missed free throws, had one last opportunity.

But he missed the three-pointer.

"I saw a little bit of room," said Gay, who also missed a potential winning shot in Game 1. "I want to try to shoot the shot."

Gay didn't have as much room as he thought, because Randy Foye ran at him, forcing Gay to double-clutch before he shot the ball.

"My main thing was to make it difficult," said Foye, who had 16 points, including a three-pointer that tied the score at 80-80 with 3:17 left. "I knew I couldn't foul him. If he would have made that, that would have been the shot of the playoffs — or at least one of them."

The Clippers were outrebounded (40-35) for the second time in three games. They had too many turnovers again, throwing the ball away 17 times.

And of course there was the horrible free-throw shooting, as they were outscored by 17 at the foul line.

But in the end, the Clippers won, making their long-suffering fans happy.

"My grandmother was here," Foye said of Ruth Martin. "I know that's hard on her heart. I know that was tough on her. But we played good and I hope she's OK."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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