Finally, Rudy Gay got his chance to play in the playoffs.
Gay, who carried the Grizzlies in the last 10 games of the regular season when he averaged 22.0 points and 6.5 rebounds and shot 50.9 percent from the field, missed the playoffs last year because he underwent shoulder surgery.
That's why Sunday night's Western Conference first-round playoff opener was so important to Gay.
And that's why he had to be incredibly hurt when his team blew a 24-point lead with 11 12 minutes to play, losing 99-98 to the Clippers. Even worse, Gay's 10-foot game-winning fade-away jumper bounced off the front rim at the final buzzer.
"We're up by 27 (late in the third quarter) and we got too comfortable," said Gay, who scored 19 points, but made just 2-of-6 shots in the fourth quarter when the Griz were outscored 35-13. "We played great together for three quarters and let up in the fourth. Hopefully, we learned that we can't be too comfortable. We can't let it happen to us again."
The Grizzlies have until Wednesday to recover before Game 2.
-Before the game, Griz coach Lionel Hollins said his team was raring to go.
"I had to pull on the rein a lot yesterday (Saturday) in practice," Hollins said. "We only stayed out there for 75 minutes, because they were trying to get after it.
"We've watched a lot of film and for the last week when we weren't playing we'd have four or five guys come in every night to shoot. I think they have a sense of urgency and understanding how many opportunities you might not get to make the playoffs. We're fortunate to be here a second straight year and we want to take advantage of it."
Afterwards, Hollins said "little things cost you games."
"Playoff games aren't meant to be blowouts," Hollins said. "Sometimes they are, but when you have two evenly-matched teams, you can expect both teams to be in the game at the end. The Clippers got back in the game and made more plays than we did in the end."
-The Grizzlies, who finished the regular season ranked 25th in 3-point percentage (32.6), making 4.2 3's per game, hit 11-of-16 vs. the Clippers.
-Memphis had an 11-game home-court winning streak snapped. It's the first time the Griz have lost at home since March 16 in overtime to Toronto.
-F Zach Randolph was targeted to work defensively by Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro because "he's not back to where he was."
Randolph, who has come mostly off the bench since returning on March 16 after missing 37 games because of a torn medial collateral ligament in his right night, was in the starting lineup in the playoff opener.
He scored the Grizzlies' first points of the night on a 17-foot jumper, but it was downhill for Randolph after that. He finished with just six points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"Reggie Evans did an outstanding job on Zach in the fourth quarter," Griz coach Lionel Hollins said. "He was banging him pretty good."
-G Mike Conley's 17 points were fueled by 5-for-5 3-point shooting, including four treys in the third quarter. Conley's five 3's tied Mike Miller's single-game Griz playoff record, and Conley became the first Griz to make five 3's in a playoff game without a miss.
Conley would trade the record for a different finish.
"We tried to walk the ball up the court instead of running and pounding the ball inside," Conley said. "We've got to stick to what we were doing, moving the ball and getting a little better tempo. We slowed it down, allowed them to get a good rhythm and allowed them to get back in the game."
-C Marc Gasol had 14 points and six assists at halftime, and that's the way he finished after attempting one shot in the second half.
"They did a good job of pressuring the ball and making us get away from what we do," Gasol said. "They put pressure on us, we took bad shots and we got out of rhythm. They denied the high-low post, so we couldn't go high-low, which is something we like to do."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's a long series, we've got seven games left." -- Griz forward Marreese Speights, who's obviously not a math major.