LA Clippers (26-41) at Memphis (36-31)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Sunday, Mar 13, 2011 Tipoff: 8:00 pm EDT Mon Mar 14, 2011

If the Memphis Grizzlies hope to make the playoffs, earning wins over Blake Griffin(notes) and the Los Angeles Clippers down the stretch will help.

Three of the Grizzlies’ remaining 15 games are against Griffin and the Clippers, who are surging as they visit FedExForum on Monday night.

Memphis (36-31) holds a slight lead over Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies have split 10 games since second-leading scorer Rudy Gay(notes) went down with a left shoulder injury during a 102-91 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 15.

“I’ll be glad when he comes back,” coach Lionel Hollins said.

The Grizzlies will get their second look at Griffin, who they limited to 19 points and 11 boards in an 84-83 road win Dec. 11. Two of Memphis’ three remaining matchups with Los Angeles come in its last five games.

Griffin has matched his longest stretch without a double-double at three contests. He was still impressive Saturday at Washington, scoring all 26 of his points in the first half of a 122-101 victory.

“Blake got us going,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We wanted the ball inside and to get to the free-throw line and control the game that way, and I thought he got us off to a great start.”

Los Angeles (26-41) improved to 5-1 in March after the All-Star forward shot 8 of 15 from the floor and 10 of 11 from the line in the first half.

“My teammates found me early and I just got into a rhythm,” Griffin said. “I felt pretty good in the first half and we just all moved the ball and were hitting shots.”

The Clippers matched their second-largest victory margin of the season with their third win in four games on this five-game trip. Griffin took two second-half shots and logged fewer than 30 total minutes for the first time in 44 games.

“Just sitting there on the bench, talking with Mo Williams(notes) and Randy (Foye), was nice,” Griffin said. “I think that was the first time this year we’ve gotten to sit. At this point of the season, having played so many games and so many minutes, it’s just nice to sit there.”

Hollins was also able to rest his starters in the Grizzlies’ last game, but not for the reason he would have preferred. Memphis suffered its worst loss of the season Saturday, 118-85 at Miami after trailing by 18 at halftime.

“We came out passive and they were aggressive,” Hollins said. “They knocked us back. It was still 28-22 then in the second quarter the dam broke. We weren’t able to do anything offensively. Guys we were counting on didn’t have it.”

Reserve O.J. Mayo(notes) had a team-high 19 points for the Grizzlies, who allowed the Heat to shoot 58.0 percent - the second-worst mark against Memphis all season.

Memphis is looking to avoid its first three-game skid since Dec. 17-21.

The Clippers’ Eric Gordon(notes) has not played on the trip due to a right wrist injury. The Grizzlies should be happy about that, as the guard has averaged 24.0 points in his last three games against them.

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Monday, Mar 14