Quincy Pondexter knocks the ball away from Chris Paul during the first half… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It's tough to win a playoff game going one on five.
The Clippers gamely tried Tuesday at Staples Center, but not even the sustained brilliance of Chris Paul was enough on a night he nearly doubled the output of his fellow starters with 35 points.
The Memphis Grizzlies didn't deliver a powerful jab during a 103-93 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round series as much as what seemed like a knockout blow, taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
BOX SCORE: Memphis 103, Clippers 93
Now that the series has started, to use that expression about the road team breaking through for a playoff victory, it's pretty much over for the Clippers.
They have lost three consecutive games, and as tempting it is to use Blake Griffin's sprained ankle as an excuse or tout the Clippers' recent success at FedEx Forum, where they won twice in the playoffs last season and twice during the recently completed regular season, well, forget it.
If Tuesday's no-show is any indication of the way the Clippers intend to play at a time when they need contributions from everybody, then they might as well call it a season instead of taking the flight to Memphis for Game 6 on Friday.
That could be the end of the Vinny Del Negro era and these Clippers as we know them.
Whatever alleged adjustments the Clippers made in the last three games must be classified because they seemed imperceptible to the naked eye.
The Grizzlies were tougher again Tuesday, Marc Gasol's and Zach Randolph's old-school play under the basket providing another lesson the Clippers couldn't quite seem to grasp. There were layups and putbacks and dunks and few counterpunches from their counterparts.
The Clippers were largely bystanders, particularly on Jerryd Bayless' uncontested layup with three-tenths of a second left in the third quarter.
Paul did everything he could. Too bad the other Clippers starters combined for 18 points.
Griffin tried to gut it out on the sore right ankle he hurt in practice Monday but clearly wasn't himself, finishing with four points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler continued to give the Clippers next to nothing, combining for eight points. DeAndre Jordan was passable with six points and eight rebounds but hardly the defensive and rebounding force the Clippers needed.
Paul was pretty much all the Clippers had, pulling up for jumpers and swirling through the lane for layups.
"CP3! CP3!" the fans chanted as Paul shot free throws late in the third quarter that cut the Clippers' deficit to six points.
Paul scored 21 points by halftime, his flurry of jumpers keeping the Clippers in the game despite the horror show that was the second quarter.
There was a trio of defensive three-second penalties in the first 5:15 that gifted the Grizzlies three points.
Paul and Griffin both airballed shots and Butler stepped out of bounds. Jordan committed an offensive foul and oddly clapped on his way back down the court.
It got worse. Ryan Hollins turned the ball over with a bad pass in the backcourt, prompting a collective groan from deflated fans.
The Clippers hung around until the final minutes, a jump hook by Jamal Crawford pulling them to within 94-88. Crawford finished with 15 points as the only other Clipper to score in double figures.
But the Clippers were finished after Gasol answered with a jump hook with 48 seconds left.
Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins, who played tennis regularly after his basketball playing days ended, realized this was a victory that would make it advantage, Grizzlies, in the series.
"I know about holding serve," he said before the game. "I know about breaking too."
The Clippers could be broken for good.