Memphis center Marc Gasol reacts after being called for a foul on Chris Paul… (Mike Brown / EPA )
The Clippers were in Memphis on Saturday night.
Restricted now to a chicken diet, as soon as I read the headline: “Memphis man, son don't like chicken order, pull AK-47,” I remained in Placentia to watch the Clippers on TV.
“I haven't been this excited for a regular-season game in years and years,” Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler is saying on the pregame show, and I would guess Lawler has gone decades at times between exciting regular-season games.
This was the biggest thing to hit Memphis since Stubby Clapp got the call to the major leagues from the Cardinals 12 years ago.
Right from the start, Prime Ticket checked in with the Grizzlies' TV analyst, Sean Tuohy, father to Michael Oher, who was the subject of the movie “The Blind Side.”
The Clippers answered Tuohy with Mike Smith who has 10 children and claims he can remember all their names. It really was a matchup with everything to offer.
Memphis lost Marc Gasol early, though, to a pair of fouls, the second coming when Chris Paul fell within the same area code as Gasol. When in doubt, as Pau Gasol would tell you, the refs will blame a Gasol.
The Clippers went up by six in the second quarter and the Memphis crowd was dead or daydreaming about what it would be like to have someone more than Stubby Clapp to hail.
DeAndre Jordan, meanwhile, put on a show. That sentence has never been written before, but after being called out by Page 2, he responded with 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half. It was the finest half in his pro career, and I didn't even have to look it up.
But you still get the feeling that Coach Vinny Del Negro was wrestling with the thought of benching him.
It was 51-51 at halftime, three Blake Griffin commercials shown so far, making it one more commercial than baskets scored.
So far Paul and Griffin had yet to make an impression, and the Clippers would begin the second half without Caron Butler, suffering from a sore knee.
But the stars showed up to start the second half, with Paul and Griffin combining to score a dozen.
It was 77-77 in the fourth quarter, the 15th tie, with the Clippers getting a humongous contribution from Grant Hill. Hill, the oldest player in the NBA at age 40, has played in only one of the team's last eight games.
But credit goes to the Clippers, who were known for being cheap but who hung on to Hill all season long just for a moment like this.
He hit a three-pointer and then followed with a short jumper to help ignite a 14-0 Clippers' run.
The Clippers jumped in front by nine with their reserves outhustling the Grizzlies, but this was actually a meaningful NBA game, so Memphis closed to within one.
Paul then hit a Kobe-like jumper, the shot of the game as Smith would tell the audience later, and then added a free throw.
The Clippers had a two-point lead, but Memphis had the ball.
Jordan blocked a shot just to demonstrate the first half wasn't a complete fluke, and while Memphis still had the ball, after awhile you just begin to feel sorry for the folks in Memphis who have no joy in their lives.
Griffin deflected a pass intended for Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford got a couple of free throws, and the Grizzlies might want to reconsider their “grit, grind and believe Memphis” motto after the Clippers outscored them 23-14 down the stretch.
Third place still remains a possibility, but if all goes according to NBA form, the playoffs will most likely begin in Los Angeles next Saturday with the fourth-seeded Clippers hosting Memphis.
By then Paul will have a new pair of shoes.
He removed his after the game to give them to a youngster, a child now in Memphis dreaming of the day when he might escape and play for the Clippers.
I LOVED the Kobe Bryant rant on Facebook; he was human.
He went from a “why me” tirade in a matter of moments to a man of perspective in concluding, “There are far greater issues/challenges in the world than a torn Achilles.”
Indeed. Don't ask a Lakers' fan, but ask any patient sentenced to death or parent hovering over a seriously ill child about a millionaire athlete already set for life.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” wrote Bryant, in delivering a pep talk to anyone dealt bad news. “Find the silver lining and get to work….”
Now as for Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni, the Jim Buss mistake continues.
D'Antoni is in charge, no matter the popular opinion that no one can control Bryant. D'Antoni is paid well to command the Lakers.
D'Antoni, who abandoned Pau Gasol early on, made it clear to the other players on the team that they could not win without Bryant going 48 minutes every game.
Even if you grant D'Antoni the decision to play Bryant 48 minutes, when Bryant came up hobbling twice against Golden State before the Achilles rupture, it was his job to protect Bryant from proving he's some kind of superhuman warrior.
D'Antoni's poor judgment, given the impact early on with Gasol and now Bryant, is right there with the decision to hire him.
BEFORE I went to bed, I noticed the Angels scored a run against the Astros. I'm so proud of those guys. I knew they could do it.