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Grizz land on the wrong side of history

How do you lose a 27-point, second-half lead in the opening round of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs when you are up by 21 points entering the final quarter on your home court?

 
Clippers guard Nick Young (right) earned this moment of celebration, scoring nine points on three consecutive three-pointers in a 60-second span in the fourth quarter.

How do you lose a 27-point, second-half lead in the opening round of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs when you are up by 21 points entering the final quarter on your home court?

 
Memphis fans are a picture of disbelief
after the Grizzlies blew a 27-point lead and lost to the Los Angeles
Clippers in game one of the NBA Western Conference Playoffs at the
FedExForum. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)


 
O.J. Mayo of the Grizzlies scores over Kenyon Martin of the Clippers for two of his 17 points. “We got way too relaxed and casual,” said Mayo of the Grizz loss. “We’re going to come back in game two with an attitude that we can’t quit.”

 
Reggie Evans grabbed eight rebounds in the fourth quarter and made a lay-up with 50.3 seconds left in the game to give the Clippers their first lead of the ball game (97-96). “Going out there and bumping and grinding, just do whatever we need to do,” Evans said.

“We were losing our men, over committing,” said Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins, after the Grizzlies fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 99-98 at FedExForum on Sunday (April 29) night.

“We just got careless. We just lost a little bit of our discipline from a defensive perspective. We ran earlier, we attacked. We were in transition earlier. We just stopped doing that and got conservative and it cost us.”

Wow, did it ever. The Grizz came out on the wrong side of history, ending up on the losing end of one of the biggest playoff comebacks in NBA history.

The night and the game started off with so much promise and such high-energy. Fans adorned in white T-shirts waved gold growl towels throughout the sold-out arena. Memphis made 11 of its 16 three point attempts. Everything seemed smooth sailing until the fourth quarter.

Then came the unraveling.

The Grizzlies missed 12 consecutive shots in the fourth as the Clippers outscored Memphis 35-13, wiping out a 27-point deficit. Los Angeles closed the game on a 28-3 run.

“Our guys didn’t give up,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys. We came out and were back on our heels a little bit.”

Grizz forward Rudy Gay, who led Memphis with 19 points, said he thought the team got too comfortable.

“We were up 27, but they are the type of team that can always be in the game. The type of players they have and the way (All-Star point guard) Chris (Paul) played, the way he found people, anything can happen,” said Gay, who made his playoff debut after six years in the league.

“I think it’s probably good that it happened today in the first game. We can’t be too comfortable and we learned the lesson today.”

Grizz guard Mike Conley scored 17 points and made all five of his three-point attempts. Memphis, he said, “gave it away.”

“Give them (Clippers) credit, they fought hard. We made some mental errors down the stretch and they took advantage of it. This is a long series and now we’ve got to take care of business,” said Conley.

“Every loss hurts. This one hurts especially given the fact that we were up so many points. This is a long series; every loss is still a loss. We just have to come back ready to fight and be mentally prepared to play all four quarters.”

Mayo, who also scored 17 points, agreed with Conley’s gave-it-away assessment.

“The fourth quarter, we got way too relaxed and casual. I had three turnovers in the fourth quarter. We definitely can’t have that….We have to learn from this right now. We’re going to come back in game two with an attitude that we can’t quit.”

Paul had 14 points and 11 assists for the Clippers. He was coming out of the game at the end of the third quarter when told his coach to let him go back in.

“Give us a chance, give us a chance,” Paul said he told Del Negro. “I think our team showed a lot of resilience, a lot of resilience in a tough environment with what do they call themselves, ‘grit and grind?’ I think we sort of took that role in the fourth quarter.”

Clippers guard Nick Young scored nine points on three consecutive three-pointers in a 60-second span starting at 2:47 left in the fourth quarter, pulling the Clippers within three points. Young led the Clippers in scoring with 19 off the bench.  

Reggie Evans grabbed eight of his game-high 13 rebounds in the fourth quarter and made a lay-up with 50.3 seconds left in the game to give the Clippers their first lead of the ball game (97-96).

“Going out there and bumping and grinding, just do whatever we need to do,” Evans said. “Everyone was just believing and made it happen. We don’t just chip away but we started to in the first half. They kind of got away from us be we regrouped during halftime.”

Clippers starting forward Caron Butler left the game with what later was diagnosed as a fractured left hand. He had 12 points.

“They are definitely going to go out there and continue to work hard for me,” Butler said. “I will be pulling for them and be there in spirit but it is definitely not over. I feel like we can win this series and I still have some life. It is definitely fractured.”

Basketball, and particularly the playoffs, “is about runs,” Butler added. “It is a marathon, not a sprint. We are going to get hit in the mouth early. You have 20,000 fans with towels waving, and the energy is unbelievable in this building. We just have to stay with it and stay consistent.”

The Clippers’ dunking highlight, Blake Griffin, finished with 17 points.

“I don’t think I’ve been a part of a game like that ever,” Griffin said. “It was unbelievable. They were loud and the house was packed, like we kind of expected it. But I don’t’ think that intimidated us at all. We just came out and played poorly, and they played well. They were great through three and a half quarters.”

Here’s another bit of history: the last three teams to surrender a lead of 18 points or more in the fourth quarter of a playoff game – Houston Rockets (1994), New Jersey Nets (2002) and Dallas Mavericks (2011) — each recovered well enough to make it to the NBA Finals.

The Grizz are looking to land on the rewarding side of that history.


 

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