Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe flexes after going coast to coast for… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It didn't figure to be a thing of beauty when the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies played Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs Saturday night at Staples Center.
But beauty is what a team makes it, and the Clippers found their beauty in pulling out a 112-91 victory over the Grizzlies behind the steady play of Chris Paul.
With Paul scoring 23 points on seven-for-11 shooting, six for six from the free-throw line, and handing out seven assists, the Clippers opened a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes with Game 2 here Monday night.
BOX SCORE: Clippers 112, Grizzlies 91
“It was a total team effort,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Our guys had to battle.”
It was Paul who provided the knockout punch as the Clippers dominated the fourth quarter.
Paul made two free throws, a three-pointer and got a steal that led to an Eric Bledsoe basket that put the game away, giving the Clippers a 104-97 lead.
Bledsoe made all seven of his shots for 15 points, adding six rebounds and four assists.
It was a rough night for Blake Griffin, who fouled out with 3:32 left having scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and engaged in a wrestling match with Memphis' Zach Randolph (13 points).
Chauncey Billups, playing in his first playoff game since 2011, when he played for the New York Knicks, had 14 points.
Reserves Jamal Crawford (13 points), Bledsoe, Lamar Odom (seven rebounds), Matt Barnes (10 points) and Ronny Turiaf (five points, three rebounds) went to work again for the Clippers, doing some heavy lifting in the fourth quarter.
That fivesome helped the Clippers open an eight-point lead, and the Grizzlies were unable to catch up.
The big stretch for the reserves came after Memphis pulled to within one point in the fourth.
Bledsoe scored on a drive and Turiaf tipped in a shot. Odom got a rebound and passed ahead to Crawford, who found Barnes down low for a layup.
After Bledsoe made one of two free throws, the Clippers had opened an 84-76 lead.
“I think it's a unique thing to have the depth we have, so why not use it?” Del Negro said of his reserves. “They deserve the right to be out there.”
When the Grizzlies got down by 10 points, they intentionally fouled DeAndre Jordan. Jordan, a 38.6% free-throw shooter during the regular season, made the first of two free throws for a 93-82 Clippers lead.
Marc Gasol fouled Griffin on Jordan's second miss and Griffin made both of his free throws for a 95-82 Clippers lead.
The third quarter seemingly became an all-out tug-of-war between Griffin and Randolph.
Griffin picked up his fourth foul with 5:54 left in the third and went to the bench. Randolph then picked up his fourth foul with 3:57 left in the third and had to leave the game.
Then with 5:02 left in the game, Griffin and Randolph were called for a double foul, giving them both five fouls.
At one point, the Clippers were forced to play Memphis' style of basketball. But in the end, the home team rose to the occasion.