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Marc Gasol on fire; Clippers get burned

Memphis center Marc Gasol, after a slow start in the first-round NBA playoff series, has led the Grizzlies back from a 3-1 deficit and forced the Clippers into a Game 7 finale on the road.

May 12, 2012|By Matt Stevens
  • Grizzlies center Marc Gasol looks to pass as he's surrounded by Clippers guard Randy Foye (4) and power forward Blake Griffin in Game 6 on Friday night at Staples Center.
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol looks to pass as he's surrounded by Clippers… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Marc Gasol has awakened, and that's bad news for the Clippers.

The All-Star center poured in 23 points and pulled down nine rebounds Friday, spinning, slicing and generally frustrating Clippers big men all night during the Grizzles' 90-88 Game 6 victory at Staples Center.

It was Gasol's second consecutive 23-point game after an abysmal start to the playoffs that rivaled the current slump of his brother, Lakers power forward Pau Gasol. In his first four games, Gasol averaged just more than 10 points, and the Grizzles lost three of four. But, propelled by their big man's recent offensive outpouring, the Grizzles have rallied to win two in a row to send the series back to Memphis.

"Marc is a great offensive player," said DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers' starting center. "He's a big body, and he's skilled, so he's going to make shots .… We've just got to make them as tough as possible."

Coach Vinny Del Negro said that's been the basic strategy all along: force Gasol out of the paint and away from the basket; no easy catches and no easy offensive rebounds. Very little of the strategy will change Sunday, players said. The problem is, if the Clippers successfully stop Gasol from scoring, he can involve others to do it for him.

"His biggest thing is obviously he passes the ball very well, so that puts a lot of pressure on your defense," Del Negro said.

Friday, the Grizzles had four players in double figures, including Gasol's frontcourt running mate Zach Randolph, who contributed 18.

Gasol, however, was clearly the No. 1 option and he got going early, outscoring Clippers All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, 13-12, in the first half.

As it turned out, the first half would serve as a warm-up for a third-quarter explosion. The Grizzles fed Gasol over and over while trading baskets with the Clippers in a frantic attempt to stay ahead.

The Memphis center dumped in his final 10 points of the game in the third quarter, spinning into the lane and using his height to shoot over a mix of defenders, including Griffin, Jordan and Reggie Evans.

After the game, a frustrated Evans had few answers as to what suddenly changed with Gasol or how to guard him.

After a long pause, he scrunched his face and gave his best explanation:

"He's playing good."

matt.stevens@latimes.com

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