As the final seconds ticked away in Game 2 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series between the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, Chris Paul drove to the hoop and, following an ever-so-slight push off of Tony Allen, sailed his shot over two defenders.
It's unclear if he actually called "window," but it banked through the net for a 93-91 win and drove another dagger into the Grizzlies.
Down 2-0 and heading back home to Tennessee for Game 3 on Thursday night, the Grizzlies must hold serve if they want any chance of seeing the second round. They'll need to supplement their stout defense with better offensive rebounding, decent bench scoring and plenty of free throws.
Game 3 Time: Thursday, April 25, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Series Record: 2-0 Clippers
Game 3 Key Storyline: You Must Protect Your House
Marc Gasol wasn't himself in Game 1, managing only two rebounds but dishing off seven assists. He figured things out in Game 2 with 17 points, seven boards and three blocks, nearly delivering a road playoff victory for the Grizzlies, but CP3 dashed that dream.
Memphis will be in huge trouble if it heads back to Staples Center down 3-1, but there's cause for optimism. The Grizzlies had a 32-9 record at the FedEx Forum this season.
The Grizzlies have allowed L.A. to get into the paint too often. They must focus on denying the ball in the post and frustrating the pick-and-roll. Memphis' defense is still smarting from the 112 points it allowed to the Clippers in their Game 1 drubbing. Look for them to establish a physical tone at home.
It's not just the defense that matters, as the Grizz were maddeningly inconsistent in Games 1 and 2.
Their bench scored 40 points in Game 1 when they lost to the Clippers by 21 points. In Game 2, the Memphis bench scored 11 points, losing on a buzzer-beater. Some of that disparity is due to the up-and-down Jerryd Bayless, but the Grizzlies need to combine their efforts to get past such a deep Clippers roster.
Series Star So Far
This award would have gone to the Clips' bench mob had it not been for Paul's game-winner on Monday night. Through two games, he has 47 points on 16-of-28 shooting and 16 assists.
Paul has proven himself to be the best point guard in the game, as he can generate his own scoring on prudent shot selection, run the half court offense with the best of them and stifle his opponent on the defensive end.
Though Mike Conley turned in a 28-point salvo in Game 2, Paul saved his most important bucket for the final shot. Having CP3 at their disposal helps the Clippers attack Memphis' defense in a multitude of ways.
He's scoring and distributing in equal measures, making him the key to solving the tough D opposite them.
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Chris Paul, PG; Chauncey Billups, SG; Caron Butler, SF; Blake Griffin, PF; DeAndre Jordan, C
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, PG; Tony Allen, SG; Tayshaun Prince, SF; Zach Randolph, PF; Marc Gasol, C
Clippers Injury Report (per ESPN.com)
Chris Paul (thigh), day-to-day; Chauncey Billups (groin), day-to-day
Grizzlies Injury Report
Clippers Will Win If...
They stay out of the bonus and avoid silly fouls.
This is a good rule of thumb generally, but L.A. nearly fouled their way to a 1-1 tie on Monday. The Clippers' bench outscored Memphis' reserves, 30-11, in Game 2, but needed CP3's heroics to deliver the victory because the Grizz shot so many free throws.
The teams' field-goal percentages, rebounds and turnovers were all about even, but the Grizz attempted 34 foul shots to 22 for L.A. as Conley and Allen shot 20 foul shots by themselves.
In Game 1, by contrast, the Clippers got to the line 31 times while Memphis made 25 trips. The Clippers' advantage in offensive rebounds and shooting percentage created the margin of victory.
The Clips have to make Memphis shoot jump shots instead of granting them trips to the charity stripe. Memphis ranked 28th in effective field-goal percentage (which accounts for the extra worth of three-pointers) and finished dead last in three-pointers per game during the regular season (per ESPN.com). L.A. must challenge the Grizz to shoot their way out of their 2-0 hole.
Grizzlies Will Win If...
They clean up the offensive glass like they did all season. In addition to playing strong defense and getting solid games from their bigs, the Grizzlies must reestablish their prowess at the window.
Memphis averaged 12.9 offensive rebounds and 2.6 per game more than their opponent. Through two games against the Clippers, the Grizz have been dominated in that category, 23-12, including a 14-4 deficit in Game 1.
For a team that struggles to score points, plays at a slow tempo and shoots poorly from the perimeter, those second-chance opportunities are vital to their offensive attack. While the Clippers are a strong rebounding team overall, they finished just 15th on the offensive boards.
Memphis will have to get back to its bread and butter as it gets some home cooking in Games 3 and 4. Without better toughness on defense and the offensive glass, the series might not even make it back to L.A.
The Grizzlies have a lot of fight in them, but they don't get the national attention they deserve for their quality.
Name the head coach for Memphis. Go on, I'll wait. The answer is Lionel Hollins, and I'm betting that less than 50 percent of your knew that.
The Grizz do so many things well, but they can't win in a shootout. They must manage the pace, play half-court basketball, work for quality shots and take advantage of second-chance opportunities.
Memphis will keep this game close through a combination of physical play inside and forcing the Clippers to rely on contested jumpers from beyond 15 feet.
I expect the Clippers to take one of the two games in Memphis, but the Grizz are too tenacious for a 3-0 deficit and they'll get one back in Game 3.
Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies 88, L.A. Clippers 85