Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/5/12
LOS ANGELES The Memphis Grizzlies came into their first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers with a definite physical advantage. Big men such as Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Marreese Speights were expected to knock most of the Clippers roster into the whirlpool and use their physicality as the key catalyst to win the series. It hasn't quite worked out as expected for Memphis, as L.A. beat them 87-86 in a hard fought game that came down to the final shot, a miss from 25 feet by Rudy Gay after he hit three pointers with 13.6 and 8.9 seconds remaining to bring Memphis within one. The Clippers playing in their first playoff game at home since 2006 own a 2-1 lead in the best of seven series, despite being outrebounded 40-35 and missing a whopping 17 of 30 free throws. What they did come up with was a way to turn the tables on the Grizzlies, pounding them underneath and pulling down big rebounds late in the game. "We're supposed to have a physical team," said forward Rudy Gay, who led Memphis with 24 points and seven rebounds. "(But) they took that away from us today. They pushed us (around) and did all the things we're used to doing to other teams. "It's surprising, but they do have the capability and they came out there and imposed their will on us. They did all the things they had to do getting into the lane and making plays. That's usually how we play, but we got away from how we play basketball. "I guess we'll have to see how we respond." Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who had four points, a steal and an amazing thread-the-needle pass to Blake Griffin for a dunk, all in the last two minutes, tied Gay for the game high with 24 points. He also added 11 assists and four rebounds. After initially joking about how the Clippers planned to take the game right to the wire, he talked about what a big win it was for the playoff novices like the Clippers. "It was a tough game," Paul said, holding his son in his lap during the interview. "As many times as we've played them, we knew they're never out of a game (because) they never quit. And when you have an electrifying scorer like Rudy Gay, you're never out of a game. But we put our hard hats on and never quit fighting." Blake Griffin said they made it clear early in the game they were going to take it to the Grizzlies and never back down. "We planned to be an aggressive team from the jump," said Griffin, who had 17 points, but just four rebounds, while making just 3 of 9 free throws. "I thought we did a good job taking it away from them and beating them at what they do best." Griffin added that the Clippers will have to continue their physical style in order to win the series. "That's for sure," he said. "Continuing to be aggressive and be the team that wins the physical (side of) the game is what we have to do." Anyone who questions the Clippers' willingness to pound the opposition should just take a look at forward Caron Butler, who missed the world title run by Dallas last year after knee surgery, and seemed to have been bitten by the season-ending injury bug again. He broke his left hand in Memphis and was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks following surgery. Yet when the Clippers took the court Saturday afternoon, Butler was in the starting lineup. He had just four points and three rebounds in 22 minutes, but his presence was inspirational to his teammates and a raucous sellout crowd of 19,060 at Staples Center. "Even yesterday at practice," Paul said, "we saw him with his hand all wrapped up with an (electronic stimulator) going, and found out he was going to play. I commend him because it would have been so easy for him to say 'I'm done for the season. I'm going to just take care of my hand.' "Coach (Vinny Del Negro) told us before the game that if he can play with a broken hand, then what could the rest of us do? "(Caron's) crazy, and his toughness motivated the rest of us. ... That was unreal." The Clippers are in a good position to take the series back to Memphis with a 3-1 lead should they win Monday. However, guard Randy Foye reminded reporters his team has to keep improving with every practice. "We have to get back out there (Sunday) and work on our free throws and continue to fight and be physical," said Foye, who pitched in with 16 points and four rebounds. "We have the advantage with our home court, and we want to go up 3-1."
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