MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers tightened their defense waiting for the offense to come around.
The result was a second-half burst with a strong push from the reserves to lead Los Angeles to a 101-81 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.
”I looked up at one point, and we were shooting like 28 percent,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. ”Our defense was keeping us there, then we finally took the game over when we started hitting shots. That’s a good lesson for us.”
Reserves Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford scored 15 points each to lead the Clippers. Chris Paul also had 15 points and eight assists as Los Angeles snapped a two-game losing streak. Griffin added 14 points and nine rebounds, while DeAndre Jordan had 10 points and 14 boards.
The performance was a reversal from the previous night when the Clippers lost 107-97 at Atlanta – an effort coach Doc Rivers called ”awful.” Rivers credited Griffin and Jordan with stopping the Memphis frontline, particularly Zach Randolph, who was returning from missing two games after ingrown toenail surgery.
”I thought those two guys fought hard down low,” said Rivers, who recorded his 600th win. ”I just thought their leadership defensively was why we won the game.”
Kosta Koufos led Memphis with 17 points, while Mike Conley had 16 on 6-for-8 shooting. Quincy Pondexter scored 15, and Randolph had 12 points and 12 rebounds, but made only four of his 13 shots.
The Clippers shot 13 for 20 in the fourth quarter as Paul and Griffin sat on the bench, leaving the game to the backups.
”The Clippers played real well defensively,” Koufos said. ”They established themselves early in the second half. They hit some tough shots.”
The Clippers trailed 42-40 at the break before outscoring Memphis 61-39 in the second half while shooting 56 percent. Los Angeles’ reserves ended the night outscoring their Memphis counterparts 50-31.
”That team has a lot of good players,” Randolph said. ”They have a lot of good bench players that could be starting.”
As is the case when the two get together, it was chippy from the start. After meeting in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs the last two years, a rivalry has developed.
Early in third, Jerryd Bayless shoved Griffin for a flagrant 1. Then Randolph started mouthing with anyone in a Clippers uniform. And the lobbying for calls from both teams led official Danny Crawford to warn the coaches he had heard enough complaining.
In the meantime, the Clippers turned up the defense, enabling them to click off a 21-7 run to open the quarter for a double-digit lead.
”I thought the way we responded was good,” Griffin said. ”There are challenges mentally and physically, and I think that was a mental challenge for us. We were mentally tough in that situation.”
The rally helped the Clipper outscore Memphis 24-11 in the frame and carry a 64-53 lead into the final quarter.
Los Angeles connected on 10 of its first 14 shots in the fourth, continuing to build the lead to as many as 24.
Several Clippers players said the frustration from games like the one at Atlanta is they believe in their ability to play good defense.
”It would be one thing if we knew were weren’t capable of it, and we didn’t have the bodies and the people to execute it, but we do,” Paul said. ”We have myself, young, athletic guys that know what we’re capable of. I may not be athletic, but I am young.”
NOTES: The road team has won the last five games in the series. Memphis’ last regular season home win over the Clippers was April 9, 2012. … Los Angeles now holds a 36-35 edge in the all-time series. … Memphis G Tony Allen sat out with a bruised hip suffered in the Grizzlies’ victory over Phoenix on Monday. … The Clippers are on a seven-game road trip that opened with a 107-97 loss at Atlanta on Wednesday. They have one other seven-game swing in mid-January. … Counting the first-round playoff games the last two seasons, the Grizzlies and Clippers have played 22 times since Jan. 26, 2012.