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Chris Paul, Clippers earn gritty win, 3-1 series lead over Memphis

Chris Paul scores eight of his 27 points in overtime, pulling the Clippers to a 101-97 victory at Staples Center and to within one win of Western Conference semifinals. Blake Griffin scores 30 for L.A.

May 07, 2012|By Broderick Turner

Chris Paul scored eight points in overtime and Mo Williams made two free throws with 7.2 seconds left in the OT to help the Clippers escape with a 101-97 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series Monday night at Staples Center.

The Clippers lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1, and can close it out with a victory Wednesday night in Memphis.

Paul, the closer the Clippers can't seem to live without, nearly had a triple-double with 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

"That's what it's about. It's about yourself in that situation and responding," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "It was a battle today and Chris took over the game like he always does."

Blake Griffin, who fouled out with 2:26 left in overtime, had 30 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Griffin had given the Clippers a 95-89 lead after getting an offensive rebound, scoring and making the free throw for a three-point play.

And yet even after Paul scored twice more for a 99-93 Clippers lead with 44.5 seconds left in the overtime, Memphis still didn't go away, pulling to within 99-97 on a layup by Mike Conley, who had 25 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

The Clippers were 28 for 40 (70%) from the free-throw line, this after missing 17 of 30 in Game 3.

"It's a great battle, it's a great series," Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins said. "It's tough and we haven't come up on the long end of it. We have been on the short end in three games."

The teams were tied, 87-87, at the end of regulation.

Paul, who had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists through four quarters, couldn't get off a last-second shot for the Clippers.

The Clippers had a 10-point lead after Griffin made two free throws with 4:31 left.

But the Grizzlies sliced that lead to two points on a shot by Zach Randolph with 1:25 left in the game.

After a 24-second clock violation by the Clippers, the Grizzlies got the ball back, one possession leading to a jump ball that eventually led to Memphis' getting possession with 45.8 seconds left and trailing by two points.

Then the Grizzlies tied it, 85-85, on a basket by Rudy Gay with 35.5 seconds left.

Paul drove around Tony Allen for a layup and an 87-85 Clippers lead with 26.9 seconds left.

Now the Clippers needed to get a stop on defense, just like they did at the end of Games 1 and 3.

This time the Clippers couldn't do it. Randy Foye fouled Randolph, who made both free throws to tie the score at 87-87 with 20.4 seconds left.

The Clippers gave the ball to Paul, but he slipped with Tony Allen draped over him, unable to get a shot or a pass off as time expired, sending the game into overtime.

Griffin picked up his fifth foul with 4:14 left in the game trying to take a charge from Gay.

Griffin went to the bench with the Clippers holding an eight-point lead.

Griffin was involved in a lot of contact during the game. He was pushed, shoved and grabbed by Randolph. He was snacked in the face by reserve center Hamed Haddadi on a dunk, whacked by Marreese Speights, bodied up by Marc Gasol and hit hard by Dante Cunningham on another dunk while he was fouled.

It was all an attempt to slow down Griffin.

"Get off me," Griffin yelled at Randolph when the two got mixed up early in the second quarter.

Griffin then called for the ball, getting deep position down low on Randolph, who committed a foul with 3:13 left in the second quarter.

But then the two of them got mixed up again, with Randolph's arms wrapped around Griffin, who stood his ground.

Randolph was given a technical foul on the play, upsetting the Memphis forward so much that he threw his headband while coming off the court.

It seemed clear that Griffin was going to be as physical as Randolph has been.

It seemed clear that Griffin wasn't going to back down, his 16 first-half points an indication of how into the game he was.

The Clippers led 51-45 at the half, much of that because they were efficient from the free-throw line.

The Clippers still have a lot to clean up, like rebounding and free-throw shooting. They were outrebounded 47-36, for the third time in the four games in the series.

The Clippers made 14 of 18 free throws in the first half, helping them make up for a slow start in which they fell behind by eight points in the first quarter.

Then the player known as "Tuff Juice" showed his toughness.

Caron Butler, who has inspired his teammates by playing with a fractured left hand that was supposed to sideline him four to six weeks, went to work.

Butler scored 11 points in the first quarter, going four for six from the field, one for two from three-point range.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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