Clippers-Grizzlies Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 12, 2012
The Memphis Grizzlies are confident, yet realistic. They've got their series with the Los Angeles Clippers back to even with a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday. At least this decisive game will be played in Memphis. The Grizzlies lost in the Western Conference semifinals last spring with the seventh game in Oklahoma City, and they feel the hostile road environment played at least a small part. The Grizzlies will have a sellout crowd on hand as they try to finish a rare rally from a 3-1 series deficit against the Clippers, who blew their second chance to advance with a 90-88 loss Friday night. Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay missed last year's Game 7, watching from the bench with his injured shoulder in a sling, and he said Saturday he's looking forward to this game even though none of the Grizzlies thought this series would go this far. ''Win or go home,'' Gay said. ''Really I haven't done that since college, so it'll be fun.'' Only eight NBA teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit, though the Denver Nuggets had a chance to make that nine Saturday night with their own seventh game against the Los Angeles Lakers. ''We'd much rather be playing Game 7 here than in L.A. and having a chance to close out a series here at home,'' Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. ''It's definitely going to be a loud environment, and we're expecting a lot of people to come ... We just got to be emotionally stable and ready to go.'' The Grizzlies flew home immediately after their second straight win and landed around 4 a.m. local time. The Clippers, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin nursing injuries, flew to Memphis on Saturday afternoon. This will be the second Game 7 of Paul's career, so he knows what to expect. His advice? Hold nothing back. ''This is why you play for those Game 7s, everyone to see what we're made of,'' Paul said. That might be easier said than done. Many of the Clippers had called Friday night their Game 7, wanting to close out this series and earn a trip to San Antonio to play the top-seeded Spurs in the second round. Instead, they're back in Memphis on a trip they didn't want to make until sometime next season. The Clippers did take a lead in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 straight points to go up 76-66. But the team that had controlled the fourth quarter most of this series watched the Grizzlies grab it back with a 17-4 run that included a couple of turnovers by Paul. The four-time All-Star guard played with a strained right hip flexor, while Griffin appeared slowed by a sprained left knee - both injuries that happened in Game 5 in Memphis, where the Grizzlies started their rally in this series. Paul said he knows the energy will be high at FedExForum, though the Clippers have confidence from winning the first game in this series in Memphis. Paul said a key will be how officials let them play. ''We got to come out and be as aggressive as possible,'' he said. Just as the Clippers' injuries and bruises pile up, the Grizzlies have kicked it into gear with their inside-out game. The combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph is why Memphis knocked off San Antonio despite being the No. 8 seed last spring before pushing the Thunder to seven games. The Grizzlies outscored Los Angeles 48-26 in the paint, with Gasol scoring a game-high 23 points and Randolph finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. On Friday night, they outrebounded the Clippers 48-32 behind another 23 points from Gasol and Randolph's 18 points and 16 rebounds. ''It feels like last year,'' Randolph said. Randolph also didn't back down from his comments that the Clippers flop a lot. He isn't concerned about providing bulletin board material and said it would be good for the NBA to consider either slapping players with personal fouls or a technical to stop players going down as if hit by a truck when touched. ''Flopping? I don't do that,'' Randolph said. ''That's soft to me. This is a man's game.'' The Clippers need to win this series for only their second playoff win since moving to California and third all-time for a franchise once called the Buffalo Braves. Winning also would prove Los Angeles' other NBA team can compete and vindicate the big move trading for Paul. ''The biggest thing for us is we have to play our game, we have to go down there and outrebound them and make it a dog fight,'' Clippers guard Randy Foye said. This is just as important for the Grizzlies. The franchise's lone playoff series win came a year ago after the Grizzlies had dropped their first 12 playoff games. Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said when a team hasn't accomplished anything lots of firsts can pile up. ''We'd like to be a consistent franchise and get to the playoffs all the time and nobody's talking about the first,'' Hollins said. --- AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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