It wasn’t as historically dramatic as in Game 1, when the Clippers came back from 24 points down with about eight minutes left to pull off a win.
But the Clippers did manage to pull off another dramatic, heart-stopping comeback victory in Game 3 on Saturday, barely scraping out an 87-86 win in the final seconds in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,060 at Staples Center to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
Game 4 is Monday at Staples Center.
The Clippers trailed for most of the second half until guard Randy Foye made a huge three-point shot with 3 minutes 17 seconds left to tie the score at 80.
On Memphis’ next possession, Zach Randolph missed a step-back jump shot and Reggie Evans gathered the rebound.
The Clippers came up empty on offense, but they stopped Memphis again and on its next trip down the court. Then All-Star point guard Chris Paul buried an 18-foot jump shot with 2:02 left to give the Clippers an 82-80 lead.
With the crowd on its feet and roaring, the Clippers came up with a huge steal.
Then Paul weaved into the lane and bounced a pass to a cutting Blake Griffin, who slammed it with two hands, drawing the loudest roar of the game, one that seemed as if it would blow the roof off of the building.
Memphis came up empty on offense again, giving the ball back to the Clippers with a four-point lead and 25.4 seconds left.
Though the Clippers struggled to make free throws for most of the game, Paul made both with 23 seconds left as the crowd was chanting “M-V-P” to give his team a six-point lead.
Rudy Gay, who finished with 24 points, nailed a quick three-point shot to cut that lead in half, and then he buried another almost impossible three-point shot at the top of the arc with less than 10 seconds to bring Memphis to within one point.
With 8.3 seconds left, Bledsoe missed two free throws, giving Memphis a chance.
But Gay missed a double-pumping three-point shot at the buzzer.
Paul finished with 24 points and 11 assists. Griffin had 17 points and Foye added 16.
For Memphis, Randolph had 17 points while Marc Gasol finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Clippers made only 13 of 30 free throws while Memphis made 30 of 39.
But the Clippers outscored Memphis in the paint, 34-20.
Memphis 71, Clippers 64 (end of third quarter)
Marc Gasol, an All-Star this year it’s worth noting, had been a non-factor for most of the game, but he gave the Grizzlies their first lead since the first quarter when he converted an old-fashioned three-point play midway through the third quarter.
That put Memphis ahead 60-57 with about 6 minutes left in the quarter and the Grizzlies started to ground and pound -– as they are wont to do -– to build that lead … bit … by … bit … as the quarter went along.
The physical play from the first half stretched into the second half, but the referees must have huddled during intermission and decided that it was worth getting a handle on things lest a brawl break out.
This, in turn, resulted in several whistles being blown.
Blake Griffin has three fouls and DeAndre Jordan has four while Gasol has four fouls and Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley has three.
The Clippers could be ahead if they could make some free throws. They haven’t done that for much of the season and nothing has changed today. They’re 10 for 21 from the free-throw line and Griffin is three for nine.
But instead, the Clippers are behind.
Those free throws could come back to haunt them.
Just the same, the Clippers are getting out-worked on the glass, again. Memphis holds a 32-23 rebounding edge.
That could also come back to haunt the Clippers.
A little bit of play-by-play:
Randy Foye hit a much-needed three-point shot to pull to the Clippers to within four with 3 minutes 47 seconds left.
Conley responded with a baseline jumper as the shot-clock was expiring to keep it a six-point game.
Nick Young, who had just checked in, buried a crowd-pleasing three-point shot from the left corner.
Then Rudy Gay hit a short baseline shot to put Memphis back up by five points.
The Clippers couldn’t knock down free throws but Memphis did. The Grizzlies have made 23 of 29 from the free-throw line.
Gay has 15 points to lead Memphis and has made nine of 11 free throws. Zach Randolph has 13 points.
Chris Paul has 17 points and 10 assists for the Clippers and Griffin has 15 points but only three rebounds.
Clippers 50, Memphis 46 (halftime)
What an entertaining second quarter here at Staples Center, and it ended with quite a highlight.
Blake Griffin intercepted an inbounds pass by Memphis forward Marreese Speights with about two seconds left before the halftime buzzer.