Clippers power forward Blake Griffin looks to pass after stealing the ball… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The Clippers played in front of another wild, full house in Staples Center on Friday. If things don’t go better on Sunday, it will be the final game they play before their red-clad faithful this season.
They couldn’t stop the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round series, losing 90-88, and now face a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon in Memphis, where they have lost the last two games played there.
The Clippers are hoping to advance to the second round for the first time since 2006 and only the second time since the team has been in Los Angeles.
An ill-timed cold spell offensively did in the Clippers, who failed to make a shot from the field in the game’s final six minutes until Randy Foye’s meaningless three-pointer with a couple of seconds left.
PHOTOS: Clippers vs. Grizzlies, Game 6
Their points came only on free throws, but that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the Grizzlies, who overpowered them inside. The Clippers actually made nine of their last 10 free throws, but that's little consolation.
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol led all scorers with 23 points, followed by power forward Zach Randolph with 18.
The big difference in the final quarter was inside, where the Grizzlies held a 13-4 rebounding edge, 48-32 for the game.
Blake Griffin scored 17 points for the Clippers but was ineffective much of the game and had only four rebounds. Chris Paul finished with 11 points. Both Griffin and Paul were playing despite injuries sustained in Game 5: Griffin with a sore knee and Paul a sore hip.
The Clippers opened the quarter with no starters -- Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young, Mo Williams, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin -- on the court. It’s not a high-scoring group, but it was high energy.
After O.J. Mayo made an 18-footer, Bledsoe made two free throws, Williams scored on a jumper and Bledsoe made a steal and layup for a 72-68 lead that forced Memphis to call a timeout at 9:28. The lead grew to 76-68 on a jumper by Young and another by Bledsoe before Memphis responded.
Randolph scored on a tip, reserve center Hamed Haddadi scored on another tip following a missed Memphis free throw, and when Rudy Gay made a shot from the top of the key, the Grizzlies were back within one. The Clippers called timeout, and Paul replaced Williams with 6:52 left.
Memphis would take a five-point lead at 85-80 on a tip-in by Randolph, who later dunked to give the Grizzlies a five-point lead, 87-82, with 2:55 to play.
The Clippers' offense stalled again, soi it’s on to Memphis.
Clippers 66, Memphis 66 (end of third quarter)
The red-clad Clippers crowd had been subdued most of the game until, with 4:39 left in the quarter, Blake Griffin dived for a loose ball at midcourt and pushed it forward to DeAndre Jordan, who completed the play with a slam that cut Memphis’ lead to 60-58 and produced a timeout. It was the Clippers’ first demonstration of the Lob City slogan emblazoned on the fans’ T-shirts.
At that point, neither team seemed capable of stopping the other inside. Marc Gasol seemed to score at will, and Griffin began to show some of the aggressive offensive play that has defined his short career.
Memphis hit its first five shots of the quarter to hold on to its lead, though the Clippers made four of their first five … and Jordan actually made two consecutive free throws at one point.
Chris Paul finally tied the score, 60-60, with a baseline fadeaway with 3:40 left in the quarter, the first time the score had been tied since early in the first quarter.
The Clippers had built their 3-2 lead in the series in part by outscoring the Grizzlies in the second half in every game other than Game 2, which was in Memphis. That’s what they would need in Game 6 to avoid a trip back to a city where barbecue is the standard fare. The Clippers were clearly hoping their Sunday afternoon game would have more of a Tex-Mex feel, in Game 1 of the conference semifinals in San Antonio.
They outscored Memphis by four to tie the score in the third. Griffin leads the Clippers with 13, while Paul and Caron Butler each have 10. Gasol leads all scorers with 23.
The question now is whether the fourth quarter will be the domain of Paul as it has been all season.
Memphis 42, Clippers 38 (halftime)
The game remained close largely because of Memphis’ generosity. The Grizzlies had 13 turnovers by halftime to the Clippers’ three, which offset the difference in shooting percentages. Memphis was making 46% from the field, the Clippers 37%.
The Clippers opened the scoring in the second quarter when Eric Bledsoe followed his miss and tapped the ball in, which preceded two minutes of fruitless up-and-down basketball of turnovers, missed shots and shots flung up in desperation as the shot clock expired. The mess led to a Memphis timeout with 9:37 left until halftime.