Blake Griffin (32) and Chris Paul (3), surrounded by a sea of red-clan fans,… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
When Blake Griffin ran onto the court to warm up before Game 3, his senses were overcome by the spectacle of an undulating and screaming sea of red.
"That was the loudest we had heard it," Griffin said of the sellout crowd of nearly 20,000 at Staples Center, many of whom had donned red Clippers T-shirts. "Just that energy throughout our whole warmup, the intros, the start of the game, and then parts of the game — it was unbelievable."
Chris Paul took it a step further.
"I think this is one of those games that the crowd won the game for us," he said.
Saturday afternoon was Griffin and Paul's first playoff game in Los Angeles, a city known for its celebrities, gorgeous beaches and relatively quiet sports arenas peopled with fans who are reputed to be too cool to yell their heads off.
That all changed in the Clippers' 87-86 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 3 of the teams' first-round Western Conference playoff series, a streaky game in which the Clippers fans spent much of their time standing and Staples Center decibel levels often escalated to piercing volumes.
"I've only been here for a year, but I hadn't seen anything like that," said Chris Paul, who led the Clippers with 24 points on eight-for-19 shooting and 11 assists.
The Clippers entered the fourth quarter trailing by eight, 72-64. Paul, one of the consummate closers in the league, said at that point he felt a responsibly to the fans to turn things around.
"Coming in here seeing all that red, seeing all the fans on their feet and cheering and celebrating — we had no choice but to go out there and play hard and to fight," Paul said.
Paul went on to lead the Clippers with seven points in the final period, slicing his way though outstretched Grizzlies hands to give the Clippers a six-point lead with 23 seconds remaining.
The Clippers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, providing a rare treat for their often win-starved following.
The fans came equipped with various signs, one calling Kenyon Martin's playoff beard attractive, another encouraging fans to be like Reggie and eat their veggies.
"We definitely needed that," Griffin said of the fans' support.
Paul, who came to the Clippers this season from the New Orleans Hornets in hopes of winning a championship while playing for a large-market team, said he and his teammates will do some preparation heading into Monday's Game 4 showdown – and he expects the same from his fans.
"I'll say one other thing, just like we got to go to the drawing board and get better, come back in Game 4 ready and play better -- our crowd gotta come with even more energy," Paul said.
"We gonna need them even more in Game 4 than we needed them tonight. I'm sure they'll be ready."