Chris Paul Leads LA Clippers over Memphis Grizzlies in a Game 3 Squeaker
In a game of runs, the Los Angeles Clippers squeaked by the Memphis Grizzlies 87-86 in Los Angeles to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series of the 2012 NBA playoffs. The Clippers escaped after Rudy Gay missed a three-pointer at the buzzer after Eric Bledsoe of the Clippers missed two free throws with seven seconds left.
Chris Paul scored 24 points and dished out 11 assists to lead the Clippers, while Blake Griffin added 17. Gay led Memphis with 24 points.
The Clippers appeared to have the game in hand, leading 86-80 with 23 seconds remaining. Memphis had shot 1-of-13 in the quarter up to that point while scoring only nine points.
With 13 seconds left Gay hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 86-83. Bledsoe was then quickly fouled and made one of two free throws. Gay came right back with another three-pointer at the eight-second mark to narrow the Clippers lead to 87-86. That set the stage for Bledsoe's missed free throws and Gay's final chance to win it for the Grizzlies.
Memphis had taken a 71-64 lead on the strength of an 11-point advantage in the third quarter. But for the second game in the series, the Grizzlies offense could not produce in the deciding 12 minutes.
The Clippers did a good job of denying the post and limiting the Grizzlies to mainly contested jumpers. Marc Gasol made a jumper with 7:11 left to put Memphis ahead 77-71. They did not make a field goal from that point until Gay made the first of his late three-pointers with 13 seconds remaining.
That's not the way to win in the playoffs. This poor fourth-quarter performance, of course, came after blowing a 27-point lead in Game 1. Memphis was outscored 35-13 in the final stanza of their April 29 matchup, as they lost 99-98.
The Clippers came back and took control in the fourth quarter of Game 3 with nice offensive teamwork and rebounding. Five different Clippers scored in the last seven minutes of the game, with the key play a Chris Paul steal-and-assist to Griffin for a dunk and an 84-80 lead.
The teams will continue play on Monday night in Los Angeles where the Clippers have a 24-9 record at the Staples Center. Memphis needs to win to avoid a 3-1 deficit and retain reasonable hope to advance to the second round. To do that, they will need to be much more effective on offense throughout the entire contest, and learn to finish strong.
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