It was a true playoff slugfest, as both teams flexed their muscle on basketball's biggest stage.
So naturally it came down to a battle between the two teams' shortest, smallest players on the court. Chris Paul and Mike Conley traded their floor general roles for a place on the front lines, trading haymakers for clutch baskets as the seconds ticked toward the end of regulation.
Conley split a pair of free throws to cut L.A.'s lead to five with just over four minutes remaining. Paul then sandwiched a pair of jumpers around a pair of Conley buckets to keep the lead at five with 2:35 left.
After Darrell Arthur ran off his own five-point run with a jumper and an and-one finish in transition, Paul dropped in a runner to give L.A. a narrow two-point edge at the 1:20 mark. After an errant Marc Gasol jumper, the Clippers had the chance to extend their lead but failed to recognize a dwindling shot clock after Paul had given them the possession off a jump ball.
Conley orchestrated the offense on what could have been the final trip of regulation, finding a streaking Gasol for an uncontested dunk to even the score at 91 with 13.9 seconds left on the clock.
Following a Clippers timeout, Paul received a pass from Jamal Crawford with less than eight seconds remaining.
Standing between him and the basket was Tony Allen, one of the premier perimeter defenders in the NBA. Paul used a pair of hesitation dribbles to create a sliver of space to his right side, used Allen's momentum to gain further separation and calmly banked in a runner as the final buzzer sounded.
On replay review, 0.1 seconds was added back to the clock, but the Grizzlies' attempted lob pass fell short of its mark and L.A. escaped with a 93-91 win to give them a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.
The Grizzlies had done a masterful job of limiting Paul earlier in the game, but the Clippers' MVP candidate made his presence felt when his team needed him most:
ChrisPaul: 1-5, 5 pts in 1st half...8-12, 19 pts in 2nd half— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 23, 2013
And in the game's winning moments, the Clippers needed him more than ever. Paul responded:
After checking in w/ 7:33 left, Chris Paul scored 8 of Clippers' final 10 Pts (assist on other 2). Took 7 of team's last 10 FGA. Typical.— Alok Pattani (@AlokPattaniESPN) April 23, 2013
The series now shifts to Memphis, where the Grizzlies will get their chance to climb out of a two-game hole beginning Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET.
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