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Game 5: Survival fits the Grizzlies

Playing hard and not giving up kept the Memphis Grizzlies alive in a win or season-over NBA Playoffs thriller at the FedExForum on Wednesday night.

Playing hard and not giving up kept the Memphis Grizzlies alive in a win or season-over NBA Playoffs thriller at the FedExForum on Wednesday night.

 
 Grizz fans felt the intensity early and often, getting loud throughout in an effort to help Memphis to a do-or-die Game 5 victory. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

 
 O.J. Mayo forces Chris Paul of the Clippers to call a timeout.

 
 Grizz forward Rudy Gay scores over Nick Young of the Clippers late in game 5.

 
 Maurice Speights of the Grizzlies takes a hard foul from Kenyon Martin of the Clippers.

With Grizz fans tense from the outset, Memphis locked onto a success formula. It was simple. There are 48 minutes in a regulation game and the team had to go for it every second of the way. In front of a sold-out crowd, Memphis defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 92 to 80 in Game 5 of the Western Conference, first-round, best-of-seven series.

Prior to the game, Grizz head coach Lionel Hollins told his team (down three games to one) to focus on the moment.

“The first moment is the first quarter. And, so on and so forth,” Hollins said. “You can’t think about the next game or anything like that. We have to get through the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and the last three of four minutes of the game. Now, we are talking about the next game and going out there and just playing the first quarter.”

Memphis scored 24 points in the paint in the opening quarter of Game 5 and made 15-of-21 field goal attempts. In addition, they locked down on defense and out rebounded the Clippers 42-35. The Grizzlies led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter, but saw the lead shrink to six points on two different occasions.

“I thought our defense was outstanding the whole game,” said Hollins. “They shot 37 percent, and we took away some of the people that have been hurting us. Offensively, we lost our poise in that third quarter. They were fussing with the officials and getting technicals, and we were getting into it with them and kept committing fouls.

“Next thing you know, the clock is stopped and they are shooting free throws and we’re in foul trouble,” said Hollins. “But, we made enough plays and got enough stops tonight and that kept us ahead.  In the past, they just kept making shots and we haven’t been able to stop them.  It wasn’t perfect, but we got enough stops.”

The Grizzlies have started strong in all five contests but have managed to lose leads down the stretch. Memphis did not win in Los Angeles during the regular 2012 NBA season. They must get that task done on Friday to earn a Game 7 in Memphis on Sunday (May 13).

Game 5 was another grueling battle with the Clippers who logged four technical fouls in a little over one minute in the fourth quarter.

“Some of the calls we could have argued with,” said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.  “Some we should have gotten, period.  Emotions were high because we really wanted to close this game out. Now we have to go back home, live with our consequences and close out at home.”

Center Marc Gasol Gasol led the Grizz with 23 points, followed by Zach Randolph, who notched a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. They combined for 27 points in the first quarter.  Randolph made all six of his shots from the floor, while Gasol went 6-of-8.

“We knew they would go back to their bread and butter,” Jordan said. “He (Gasol) and Zach (Randolph) were going to force feed the ball inside. They got a lot of easy post touches at the beginning of the game. Though, a lot of their shots were contested, once you get a groove and get comfortable, the shots become easier.”

Playing through Gasol and Randolph is a pivotal for Memphis.

“I had talked to them earlier, yesterday and today, about them needing to play better,” Hollins said. “They needed to work harder to get the ball in the post, and we needed to make sure we threw it to them when they were open. And, they got off to a good start. Marc really got us off and then it just carried forward through the whole first half.”

Gasol went into the game ready to battle.

“We did a better job executing the game plan, especially defensively,” he said. “I think we were a little more disciplined on defense than in the past, especially in the fourth quarter when they were cutting the lead that we had. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys.”

Randolph said, “We just wanted to go inside and try to play through the post….That’s what we did tonight. Marc had a great game. He was a presence tonight. He got the ball and scored. So, that’s what we need to do – play inside out. That’s the way we’ve been playing.  That’s what got us here.”

Clippers guard Chris Paul irritated his groin and All-Star forward Blake Griffin suffered a light knee sprain in the fourth quarter but returned to the game.

Grizzlies guard Mike Conley finished with nine points, but it was his ball handling that kept the Grizzlies afloat in the second half.

“(Mike) Conley is a good point guard,” said Clippers guard Mo Williams. “He’s by far their best ball handler. We definitely want to pressure the ball. While he’s in the game, he’s just handling it better. We tend to get our hands on more balls when he’s out, obviously. When he’s out, we try to take full advantage of it.”

Williams led the Clippers with a playoff season high 20 points on 8-of-21 shooting. Paul scored 19 points, his lowest total in the series since Game 1 (14).

The Grizzlies have been one of the NBA’s best at home this season.  When at FedExForum, the Grizzlies are 17-1 when leading at the end of the first quarter and have a 16-1 record with the lead going into halftime.

 

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