With 28.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 on Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies found themselves clinging to a one-point lead after a furious comeback by a Los Angeles Clippers team that had been down as many as 27 points late in the third. Vinny Del Negro put the ball in the hands of Chris Paul, the man entrusted with changing the fortunes of the Clippers' franchise, and relied on him to make a play against Memphis lockdown artist Tony Allen, one of the league's best perimeter defenders.
With just over 25 seconds left, Paul started his move, driving right on Allen, who seemed to have pretty good position — he stayed outside CP3's right foot, directing Paul back across his body toward Memphis' big-bodied interior, and actually influenced Paul into picking up his dribble. But as Paul raised the ball above his head, Allen reached in looking for a tie-up and instead fouled the point guard. Paul hit two free throws with 23.7 seconds left, Rudy Gay's attempt for a game-winning answer fell short, and the Clippers took a 1-0 lead.
After the final buzzer, we got the thrill of victory, in the form of Chris Paul's postgame fashion tips for TNT's Craig Sager:
... and we also got the agony of defeat, as Allen took to Twitter to take the blame for failing to shut Paul down:
Big ups to Tony Allen for taking the hit on that late fourth foul, but as you probably figured, that play's not the reason the Grizzlies' 27-point lead evaporated. There's plenty of blame to go around. There's definitely blame for Rudy Gay, who missed 4 of 6 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts, barely even tried to close out in transition on the corner 3-pointers that Clippers reserve Nick Young nailed to take nine points off the lead in 60 seconds, and waited way too long to attack with the Grizzlies down one on the final possession.
There's blame for Zach Randolph, who was scoreless in the fourth, going 0 for 3 with a turnover and failing to make an impact when Memphis desperately needed someone to calm things down. On that score, there's also blame for coach Lionel Hollins and point guard Mike Conley for eschewing the game plan that built the lead and continuing to run the game through Marc Gasol in the low post; there's blame for the rest of the Grizzlies for settling for jumpers rather than continuing to work inside out and attack; and, yes, there's blame for Allen for fouling when he didn't have to and couldn't afford to.
There's blame for everyone, and of course, there's also heaps of credit for a Clippers team that everyone watching expected to roll over and die with 15 minutes left in this game, but didn't, and now has home-court advantage once again. Perhaps best of all, there's also less than 72 hours until we get to watch these two teams do it all again in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Wear something nice when you're watching it, though. CP3 sees everything.
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- Memphis Grizzlies
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Chris Paul
- Tony Allen