Blake Griffin contributed 23 points and 11 rebounds. (Facebook/Los Angeles Clippers)
On a night when something had to give for the Clippers, they hosted the Memphis Grizzlies to either extend their current four-game winning streak or end a four-game losing streak against the them, which dates back to last season’s first-round playoff matchup when the Clippers dropped four straight to Memphis.
The Clippers succumbed to the latter, dropping their first home game this season 106-102.
Unsurprisingly, things got off to a chippy start when Tony Allen was ejected after receiving a Flagrant 2 for kicking a driving Chris Paul in the face.
Allen fell victim to Paul’s head fake as Paul was driving, and Allen jumped and spread his legs as Paul headed to the rim, kicking Paul in the head with his left leg. Even if there was no intent on Allen’s part, the recklessness of the play was enough to warrant an ejection.
The Clippers trailed 29-20 after one quarter, and Zach Randolph led all scorers with 13 points.
During the second quarter, Los Angeles used improved team defense to cut the the Grizzlies’ lead to four. Matt Barnes had to leave the game momentarily after a collision with Randolph midway through the second quarter after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face from Randolph.
The Clippers also made the most out of sending Mike Conley to the bench with three early fouls. Los Angeles exploited the change in dynamic for the Grizzlies that comes with missing Conley.
Blake Griffin tied the game moments later with a finesse layup, but was sent to the bench after his third foul on Randolph.
Despite an absent Griffin, Byron Mullens came off the bench to give the Clippers a 49-48 lead on a 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining.
The Grizzlies took the lead back a few moments later and went to the break leading 52-51.
Griffin returned to the game in the third and led the Clippers with 19 points with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Paul tied things up again 74-74 on a three-point play after being fouled on a layup and sinking a free throw.
After a Mike Miller 3-pointer seemingly gave the Grizzlies a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Darren Collison hit a last-resort 3-pointer of his own as time expired in the third quarter.
Paul’s absence for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter left the Clippers’ offense out of whack, and the Grizzlies again took the lead 90-83.
In what is virtually a nightly tradition every time the Clippers play at Staples Center, Griffin woke up the sellout crowd with an aggressive put back dunk after a missed jumper by Paul. Tonight’s game marked the 100th consecutive sellout for the Clippers, a team record.
The Grizzlies managed to get offensive rebounds in key situations to stop a potential Clippers comeback. Marc Gasol’s late offensive rebound led to a three-point play and turned out to be the dagger, giving the Grizzlies a 99-91 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Randolph led all scorers with 26 points and five offensive rebounds, and Gasol added 23 points for the Grizzlies. Paul had 18 points and 11 assists for Los Angeles, and Griffin continued the fine form that earned him Western Conference Player of the Week honors earlier in the day, picking up 23 points and 11 rebounds despite early foul trouble.
The Good: Doc Rivers’ plan to put Griffin in scenarios that played well to his athleticism and ability to take the ball to the hole turned out much better than Vinny Del Negro’s insistence to engage Griffin in a dog fight with Randolph the past two seasons.
The Bad: Foul Trouble. The Clippers wasted many opportunities to come back by committing silly fouls and getting into early foul trouble, which forced them to use unfavorable rotations. Shooting 7-for-23 from behind the arch didn’t help their cause either.
What’s Next? The Clippers travel to Minneapolis to face the Timberwolves Wednesday at 5 p.m. on Prime Ticket.