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Bad habit strikes Clippers again in 96-85 loss to Memphis

Memphis' front line dominates in a 96-85 victory at Staples Center.

March 13, 2013|By Broderick Turner

Even the Clippers knew they needed a signature win.

They were presented with another opportunity to beat a top-tier team on Wednesday night, but they failed to do so in falling to the Memphis Grizzlies, 96-85, at Staples Center.

Memphis (44-19) joins Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City as top teams the Clippers have not been able to beat lately.

The Clippers have defeated the Grizzlies twice this season, the Heat once and the Spurs twice, but all those victories came earlier in the season.

They lost all three games to the Thunder season.

"I expect a lot from this team, but we're not playing at a high enough level against the top teams right now for long enough stretches to have success," Coach Vinny Del Negro said.

His team has lost three of its last five games and is a half-game behind the third-seeded Grizzlies in the Western Conference, two games back in the loss column.

But that's not all the Clippers have to be concerned about.

They are just one game ahead of the fifth-seeded Nuggets in the West and Denver owns the tiebreaker because it won the head-to-head series 2-1.

The way the Clippers are going, they are in jeopardy of losing a first-round home-court playoff seeding.

The Clippers could win the Pacific Division, and not have home-court advantage against Denver in a potential first-round matchup if the Nuggets finish with the better record.

Denver, another of the top teams, also beat the Clippers last week.

"No question it's a concern," Del Negro said about his team's recent inability to beat the top teams. "It seems like we're getting three or four guys on every given night instead of six, seven, eight guys against the top teams."

That was the case against Memphis, as the two-man diet of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin couldn't stop the Grizzlies from winning their sixth straight game and 14th of 15.

Paul had 24 points, nine assists and five turnovers.

He scored his 10,000th career point in the first quarter and became the sixth NBA player to get at least 10,000 points and 5,000 assists before the end of his eighth season.

Griffin had 22 points and six rebounds.

Jamal Crawford was back after missing two games because of a sore left ankle, but he struggled, missing nine of 10 shots and scoring only two points.

Matt Barnes started in place of Caron Butler (strained left elbow) and had 14 points and seven rebounds.

"It's going to take more energy from all of us," Paul said of what it's going to take for the Clippers to beat the best teams. "One of my old coaches used to tell me and another player, 'You're pretty good as is. But I'm going to need you to be 1% better.' So I've got to be better and Blake has to be better. Everybody."

Marc Gasol had 21 points, Tayshaun Prince 18 points and Mike Conley 17 points and 11 assists for Memphis.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_turner

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