And just like that, we're all tied up.
The Memphis Grizzlies thwarted the Los Angeles Clippers' plan to head back to Hollywood, up 3-1, winning, 104-83, in convincing fashion.
That's not a typo either. Memphis actually dropped 104 points.
The Grizzlies found themselves ahead for most of the first half, but some late second-quarter heroics, courtesy of Chris Paul, sent the Clippers into the break with a one-point lead.
Memphis recaptured that lead in the third quarter, before absolutely dismantling Los Angeles in the fourth. Paul and crew were outscored by 17 in the final period (33-16).
It was a defensive performance reminiscent of everything the Grizzlies stand for. They controlled the pace for most of the game and found ways to take Paul and Blake Griffin out of the offense on more than one occasion.
That offensive display, though, was anything but normal. Memphis isn't known for its scoring, but couldn't be stopped in the second half.
And now, it's the Grizzlies who hold all the momentum leading into Game 5.
Chris Paul, PG Clippers: B
Chris Paul had a big first half, dropping 14 points and five assists, and helping the L.A. Clippers secure their first lead of the game late in the second quarter.
He was relentless when attacking the rim and put Marc Gasol in foul trouble early in the third quarter. Nothing could stop him. He blew passed rotations and made numerous mid-air adjustments, attesting to his superior reaction time.
What concerned me was how uninvolved Paul became in the final 18 minutes. He stopped looking for his shot and finished with just 19 points to go along with six assists.
Los Angeles needs him to be aggressive consistently, and though the Memphis Grizzlies did a nice job luring him into some traps, it's no wonder the Clippers were blown out in the final two quarters.
You can't expect them to win when Paul is held scoreless for 15 straight minutes.
Mike Conley, PG Grizzlies: A-
Mike Conley struggled to find his touch from the field early on, but managed to finish with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field. He also did an excellent job creating offense for the offensively challenged Grizzlies (13 assists).
Usually a stout defender, Conley struggled to keep Paul outside of the paint in the first half. Los Angeles' well-placed screens played a part in creating the initial separation, but he also wasn't able to contain Paul off the dribble even slightly.
But then came the second half, where Conley (along with some well-timed doubles) help shut Paul down. He forced the ball out of his hands and maintained and morphed his spacing so that Paul couldn't get a feel for how to get by him.
It wasn't the prettiest of shooting displays from Memphis' point man, but he bordered on perfection in everything else he did.
Chauncey Billups, SG, Clippers: C-
It just wasn't Chauncey Billups' night.
Mr. Big Shot missed on all six of his field-goal attempts and didn't score at all.
I was pleasantly surprised by some of his defensive sets. He came up with one steal and provided some nice help defense in the second half and did an sufficient job guarding against the dribble as well.
Billups is with the L.A. Clippers to score, though. And his nonexistent off-ball movements coupled with his poor shooting made it so his out-of-character defense couldn't salvage this outing.
Tony Allen, SG, Grizzlies: B
Allen was solid on the defensive end because, of course, he was. He's Tony Allen.
The defensively savvy shooting guard closed out well on open shooters (one block), limited the amount of impact Billups was able to have on the game and also corralled some loose balls.
His help defense was disappointing, though. Normally a solid help defender, he was late on a large portion of his rotations and wasn't able to help cut off Chris Paul's drives, especially in the first half.
Still, an average defensive performance for him is a level most wings wish they could sustain consistently.
Caron Butler, SF Clippers: F
Caron Butler has a knack for scoring early and disappearing down the stretch. In this one, he just decided to disappear early.
He missed all four of his shots and didn't score a point. Just like his buddy, Chauncey Billups.
I hate to repeat myself, but like Billups, Butler is on the L.A. Clippers to score. When he doesn't score, he isn't able to make an impact.
And guess what? He didn't score, didn't make an impact (not a positive one, anyway) and Los Angeles got hammered.
Tayshaun Prince, SF Grizzlies: A
Tayshaun Prince was fun to watch in Game 3—like really fun.
Valued for his defense, Prince didn't fail to meet expectations. He swarmed the ball on the perimeter, a risky move for a 33-year-old.
And yet, he was able to recover when taken off the dribble. No one on the Clippers was able to shed him. He stuck to his man like glue, so much so that Sean Paul must be beaming with pride.
To go along with a steal and a block, Prince decided to explode on the offensive end. He was 7-of-12 from the field and finished with 15 points.
At the tail end of his career, and on a team that preaches defense first, second and third, it's rather easy to forget how talented a two-way player Prince is.
Game 3 served as a nice reminder of what he can still do.
Blake Griffin, PF Clippers: B
Blake Griffin was both good and bad.
Though the power forward finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds on 7-of-13 shooting, his defense on Zach Randolph (especially in the first half) was—well, it sucked.
He was more aggressive on the offensive end in the second half, but it wasn't enough. Griffin didn't set enough screens or engage in pick-and-rolls, and there were times when he put his head down and forced the action when he shouldn't.
That said, he had one of the better nights of anyone else on his team—by leaps and bounds, in fact. The L.A. Clippers were just that bad.
Zach Randolph, PF Grizzlies: A-
Zach Randolph barreled his way to awesomeness in Game 4.
He had a monster first half, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting, but the Clippers played him well the rest of the way, forcing him to handle the ball more than Lionel Hollins would have preferred (five turnovers).
Even though Los Angeles managed to contain him more in the second half, Randolph still found some success. He scored eight points in the final two periods, finishing with 24 for the game. Z-Bo also set some nice, hard screens on DeAndre Jordan and Griffin.
On the glass, Randolph was fiend. He grabbed nine boards, four of which came on the offensive end. And while I won't say he had a great game defensively, he was aggressive in the post and wasn't caught watching as much as he normally is. He did have a difficult time stopping Griffin when he put the ball on the floor, falling a step or two behind.
Against teams like the Clippers, whose success is predicated on fluent energy, Randolph's physical play proved to be the ultimate asset.
DeAndre Jordan, C Clippers: D
The only reason DeAndre Jordan didn't get an "F" was because the timing on his third-quarter block was impeccable.
But I refuse to devote any more words to his performance, because it was horrible. Two rebounds in 17 minutes isn't digestible when you know how big and strong Jordan is.
Credit Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph with taking him out of the rebounding picture, but also remember that Jordan has to do better. No excuses.
Marc Gasol, C Grizzlies: A+
There doesn't seem to be any stopping Marc Gasol—for the most part.
The Defensive Player of the Year had a difficult time on the defensive end. He blocked three shots and forced adjustments on others, but was whistled for a number of fouls because he was shuffling his feet too much when putting his arms in the air.
You won't find me complaining about much else, though—or anything else.
Gasol did a phenomenal job varying his offensive attack, most notably in the second half. He attacked the rim (what a handle), knocked down some jumpers and the manner in which he directs the offense from inside the free-throw line is admirable for a someone his size. He finished with a demonstrative stat line of 24 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Not enough can be made of his versatility and ability to adjust to defenses and the way the game was being called. Save for those shuffling feet of his, he was just incredible.
Jamal Crawford, SG Clippers: C-
So, yeah. Jamal Crawford could have been better—much better.
He knocked down just 4-of-11 shots from the field for 12 points, so many of which were too contested for him to even be attempting.
We all know that defense isn't his specialty either, but he killed the L.A. Clippers in the second half. I was actually surprised that Vinny Del Negro sent him back on the court for the latter part of the fourth quarter when the game wasn't completely out of hand..
With his shot not falling, Crawford should have dished the rock off more. He was visibly forcing the action, over dribbling and spinning his way into traffic.
Crawford is a great barometer for how the Clippers fare, so it's no surprise that they found themselves on the losing end here.
Jerry Bayless, PG Grizzlies: F
Crawford can find solace in Jerry Bayless' horrendous performance.
A proven commodity during the regular season, Bayless wasn't even really a sixth man here. He played just nine minutes and missed all four of his shots.
The Memphis Grizzlies offense found ways to light up the scoreboard, despite a subpar effort (to put it lightly) from one of its better scorers, but the Grizzlies are going to need Bayless to be more of a factor if they wish to score in bulk consistently.
Clippers Bench: B
The L.A. Clippers' bench was huge—absolutely enormous. If it wasn't for them, this game would have fell out of reach for the Clippers in the first half.
Not including Jamal Crawford, A Tribe Called Bench (yuck) tallied 21 points through the first two quarters.
Eric Bledsoe was exceptional on both ends of the floor, finishing with nine points, five assists, one steal and one block on 3-of-8 shooting. Lamar Odom provided some great defensive minutes (though he did get little handsy) and was able to pick his spots on offense (2-of-4 from the floor).
Matt Barnes was the more tattooed version of Odom here, and Ronny Turiaf continued to play with two-way fire (four points). Even Ryan Hollins was able to get in on the fun (five points), more so than he normally would have on offense.
You would have liked to have seen them contribute more/be more aggressive in the second half, but duplicating their first-half display bordered on impossible.
Grizzlies Bench: B
Quincy. Pondexter. That is all.
Alright, it's not. But it could be. That's how good he was. He did a little bit of everything—10 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. I loved how he was fighting over screens and contesting shots on defense as well.
Aside from Pondexter, though, the rest of the Memphis Grizzlies' reserves failed to do much—or anything.
We already discussed Jerryd Bayless' continue struggles, but both Ed Davis and Tony Wroten failed to impress in extremely limited action.
Darrell Arthur provided some instant offense off the pine, scoring four points in just 12 minutes, but he did not man the post effectively on defense. He had trouble defending with his back to the basket and wasn't prohibiting entry passes even a tad.
Save for Pondexter, Memphis' bench didn't do much. Then again, it didn't have to.