Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/8/12
LOS ANGELES--Prior to the beginning of the Clippers-Grizzlies playoff matchup, no one was talking about the possibility of it being the best first round series played, or that Chris Paul may be stepping into a pantheon reserved for just a few NBA stars. Turns out everyone should have been shouting about it. Los Angeles once again showed a resolve not always apparent during the regular season. shaking off a lackluster second half and overtime foul problems from Blake Griffin to beat Memphis 101-97. The Clippers own a 3-1 lead as the series heads back to Tennessee for Game Six, a potential clincher for Griffin, Chris Paul and their mates. Paulwho nearly had a triple-double with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists--scored 8 of his team's 12 overtime points. He was seemingly oblivious to the Grizzlies' pressure defense and showed why many feel he's supplanted the Lakers' Kobe Bryant at the premier game-closer in the NBA. "I feel we do have the best closer in Chris," said Clippers' General Manager Neil Olshey. "He's been absolutely unbelievable for us this year, and when the game is on the line we're very comfortable with the ball in his hands." Paul's backup, Mo Williams, agrees with Olshey's assessment, taking even a step further. "In my opinion he's the MVP," said Williams, who finished with 9 points, including two free throws which provided the Clippers with the winning margin. "Talk about living for those kinds of moments, he does. He came through for us and you can't say enough about him." Paul acknowledged that he's very confident in his abilities to win games down the stretch, but wasn't hesitant to talk about the play that could have led to a Clipper defeat. "(Playing big late in games) is fun; it's exciting. But...I made a mistake not being able to get a shot at the end of regulation," Paul lamented. "If I was at home watching the TV, I'd be talking so bad about me. But (even though) my teammates have confidence in me in those types of situations, everything we do to win we do as a team. Which is how we did it tonight." They also did it with a monster game from Griffin, despite the fact that he fouled out with 2:26 left in overtime. He totaled 30 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal, and even hit some key free throws late in the game, not a usual staple in his arsenal. He said that taking a 3-1 lead in the series was something the Clippers wanted to do as soon as they made their miraculous comeback from 27 points down in Game One to win it. "It's great," he said. "It's something we talked about once we got one at their place. We wanted to make sure we got these two at home and turn the home court advantage to our side." And like the rest of his teammates, he was effusive in his praise for CP 3. "He's unbelievable, man," Griffin said, "he's done that for us all year. We tried to help him out (tonight), but he seemed to put us on his back and carried us late in the game. I haven't seen anybody do it better or more consistently. We put the ball in his hands and he makes plays for us." The leather sphere will be back in Paul's hands Wednesday in the Fed Ex Forum, where the Grizzlies will be fighting for their playoff lives, and the Clippers will be trying to earn a trip to the second round to face San Antonio. Point guard Mike Conley led Memphis with 25 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds, said the team is happy to be heading home, but they want to see California one more time. "We've got to play (Game Five) like it's the last game," Conley said, "because it could (actually) be the last game. We've got to give everything we've got. Guys have got to play for one another right now, and realize that winning is the only thing that matters. Doesn't matter who steps up, whatever. "We've got to win." And Paul knows it won't be easy to win another game in Memphis. "We still haven't done anything yet," he said humbly. "We did what we were supposed to dowin our home games. That's it. "This is not over."
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