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Clippers' playoff series takes a bearish turn with Game 6 loss

Grizzlies win, 90-88, to level first-round series at 3-3 and set up winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday in Memphis, where Grizzlies can become only the ninth NBA team to win a series after trailing 3-1.

May 12, 2012|By Broderick Turner

The Clippers have put themselves in this predicament, on the verge of making NBA history -- and not in a good way.

They suffered a 90-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Staples Center in Game 6, leaving their best-of-seven first-round playoff series tied at 3-3.

The Clippers have lost two straight games and now must play a seventh game on the road, with Blake Griffin (sprained left knee) and Chris Paul (strained right hip flexor) still not close to 100% healthy.

Game 7 is Sunday in FedEx Forum in Memphis.

"Gotta win," Paul said after scoring just 11 points and handing out seven assists. "This is it. We could lose Game 5 and lose Game 6 and be OK. Game 7, it's going to be exciting.

"It's in Memphis. We showed an ability to win there. I get a couple of more days and try and get as healthy as possible."

Here is where the Clippers hope to avoid some sort of history. They had a 3-1 lead in the series and had two chances to close out the Grizzlies, failing both times.

Only eight NBA teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series, the last being the 2006 Phoenix Suns, who did it against the Lakers in the first round.

The Grizzlies are looking to become the ninth team.

Since 1948, 80% of Game 7s have been won by the home team.

"It's uncharted territory for us, for us as a team," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We've just got to stay together, battle through it and give our best effort of the season on Sunday."

With Paul and Griffin hobbling in Friday night's game, it doesn't look good for the Clippers.

Griffin had 17 points and five rebounds, but he wasn't the same player.

"He's a warrior," said Paul, who fouled out with 13.1 seconds left. "He played through it and I did the same. We're going to go out there Sunday and we can't hold nothing back.

"I think me, I started off favoring [the injury], unsure about it. But I can't do that Sunday. Sunday you've got to go out there ready to scrap, crawl, whatever it is. You try to hold [the pain] back. You lose it [the game], you've got the whole summer to get healthy. I'm not ready to start my summer."

The turning point Friday came in the fourth quarter.

Right after the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to open an eight-point lead, Memphis came back at them with a 10-0 run, opening a two-point lead later in the quarter.

During that run, Del Negro had his reserves in the game.

When asked if he felt he'd left his reserves in too long, Del Negro said, "No, I don't."

"We had an opportunity to really put them away," Paul said. "I think that's something that will play back in my head a lot."

It didn't help that the Clippers had three of their seven turnovers in fourth quarter, when the game hung in the balance.

"I think one of the keys was my two turnovers," Paul said.

One turnover led to a Mike Conley three-pointer and a tip-in by Zach Randolph (18 points, 16 rebounds) for an 85-80 Memphis lead.

Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 23 points.

"We didn't want to go back to Memphis -- not until next season sometime," Paul said. "But we've got to leave tomorrow, go to Memphis, get some rest and be ready to play."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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