With three minutes left, the Clippers' lead was down to three on Dante Cunningham's short jumper. Caron Butler slowed the Clippers' stall with a contested 15-footer with 1:45 left.
Conley'sbasket cut the lead to two with 45 seconds to left, but Kenyon Martin just beat the shot clock with a hook while running across the lane to make it 69-64.
Clippers 51, Grizzlies 45 (halftime)
Maintaining an intense pace in a game as physical as a rugby match, the Clippers built a 10-point lead before the Grizzlies cut into that with the last two buckets of the half.
Blake Griffin has begun to establish command inside. He has 16 hard-earned points, followed by Caron Butler and Chris Paul with 11 each.
Mike Conley leads the Grizzlies with 12.
Paul's solo move down the lane at the start of the quarter forced Memphis into a quick timeout. The Grizzlies regrouped and scored three consecutive baskets before Mo Williams stopped the run.
Williams brought 19,000-plus fans to their feet midway through the quarter when he connected with Griffin on a breakaway alley-oop dunk that pushed the Clippers' lead to seven, 43-36.
Eric Bledsoe, who replaced Paul early in the quarter, made his presence felt quickly, with a helter-skelter full-court drive that put him on the line (he made one of two). He then dived out of bounds to save a ball and soon thereafter blocked a shot. He also had two rebounds with the kind of energetic showing that delights -- and sometimes torments -- Clippers fans.
The physical play of this series reached a peak when Marc Gasol was called for a hard foul on Reggie Evans, and Zach Randolph corralled Griffin in a headlock as Griffin approached Gasol. Randolph and Griffin have been going at each other like MMA heavyweights all series, and this game is no exception.
Griffin converted on another strong inside move to give the Clippers a 48-40 lead, and shortly thereafter Randolph hammered Griffin on a drive, was called for a foul and then was called for a technical when things got really physical. Two free throws later, the Clippers led, 50-40, and when Randolph, the former Clipper, left the game, he was booed wildly by the impassioned crowd.
DeAndre Jordan, who has had trouble having any positive impact for the Clippers this series, was called for a technical foul after being called for a personal foul late in the quarter. Jordan finished the half with four points and two rebounds.
Clippers 32, Grizzlies 26 (first quarter)
The Clippers and Grizzlies picked up the physical, intense play that has been a trademark of this series as Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series opened tonight at Staples Center. All five starters scored for each team eight minutes into the game in a fast-paced quarter.
Caron Butler led the way for the Clippers with 11 points on four-of-six shooting. Chris Paul had eight and Blake Griffin six. Memphis spread its scoring almost equally among six players. The Clippers shot 61% to Memphis' 42.9% and, stunningly, made all seven of their free throws.
Despite an arena packed with fans wearing red T-shirts loudly supporting the Clippers, the Grizzlies took a 6-0 lead before Butler, starting his second consecutive game despite a broken left hand, made a short jumper. But Memphis responded immediately with two quick baskets to force a Clippers timeout with 8:17 to play in the period.
Butler kept the Clippers from being blown out early with a dunk and inside move to bring the Clippers back to 12-8 after they had fallen behind 12-4.
Griffin was fouled hard on a breakaway and went to the line for two free throws with 6 minutes to go; he made both, a shocking development for a team that has struggled to make half its free throws in the playoffs.
Griffin tied the score, 12-12, with another breakaway.
The Clippers took their first lead on a breakaway dunk from Paul to DeAndre Jordan, and a tecnhical on Rudy Gay put Chris Paul on the line, and suddenly the Clippers led, 23-20. O.J. Mayo's three tied it before Randy Foye's three-pointer pushed L.A. ahead again.
Jordan's dunk on a feed from Mo Williams pushed the lead to 28-23, the Clippers' biggest advantage at that point.
They haven’t made their free throws when they’ve needed to, and they’re not getting much production out of their starting center, but the Clippers still hold a 2-1 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies as they continue their Western Conference first-round playoff series at a sold-out Staples Center Monday night.
Caron Butler, who gave the Clippers an emotional spark, but little esle, when he started Saturday’s victory despite a broken hand that was expected to keep him out at least a month, is ready to play again Monday night.
Butler, who scored only four points and had three rebounds Saturday, was clearly limited by the injured left hand when he played 22 minutes, but his presence offered teammates visible proof of his intensity.
The Clippers are looking to get more production inside from center DeAndre Jordan, who has struggled against Memphis’ aggressive inside game. Jordan was scoreless and had only three rebounds in 17 minutes Saturday; Reggie Evans picked up some slack with 11 rebounds and his physical style.
Still, the Clippers played solid defense Saturday, holding Memphis to 40% shooting and limiting the Grizzlies to 15 points in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers are trying to win an opening-round playoff series for only the second time since they’ve been in Los Angeles. Game 5 goes back to Memphis on Wednesday.
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