MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Chris Paul has had a chance to watch the tape, and the Clippers guard is not happy with himself.
He was averaging 23.5 points as the Clippers won the first two games in Los Angeles. Then the series shifted to Memphis, and the Grizzlies held him to eight points with only four assists and five turnovers in winning 94-82 on Thursday night to pull within 2-1 in this first-round series.
“I just got to be more aggressive you know what I mean?” Paul said Friday after practice. “I’ve just got to be more aggressive. I played 30 some minutes and didn’t shoot one free throw. Something ain’t right.”
The Grizzlies are expecting the Clippers’ guard to try to take control from the start Saturday in Game 4. A win by the Clippers gives them the chance to close out this series Tuesday night in Los Angeles. If Memphis can holds its court, then the Clippers will be returning to Tennessee.
Grizzlies guard Tony Allen credited Memphis coach Lionel Hollins with keeping fresh bodies on Paul helping make it as difficult for Paul as possible.
“We got a scheme for him we want to stick to it,” Allen said. “And we definitely know that he’s going to come in aggressive tomorrow. We know all those guys are going to be aggressive. What we have to do is come in with the mentality we want to hit first and protect our home court.”
The team that wins on the boards has won each of the games in this series. The Grizzlies regained their inside dominance Thursday night with a 45-33 edge in rebounding along with a 22-4 scoring difference on second-chance points. They also disrupted the Clippers’ offense by staying out of foul trouble until late in the gmae.
Paul is a perfect 12-of-12 at the free throw line in this series, but he didn’t reach the stripe even once in Game 3. Memphis made more free throws (28) than the Clippers even attempted (23). Paul said that left them taking the ball out of the net all night long foul after foul.
“They were in the bonus with 8 minutes left in just about every quarter,” Paul said. “That slows the game down, which obviously feeds into their style, and we can’t do that.”
The Clippers’ guard had 16 assists combined in Los Angeles. Paul wound up matching his four assists in Memphis with four fouls, and the Clippers, a team that ranked fourth in the NBA averaging 23.9 assists a game, finished with only 14. They also had 18 turnovers, though Paul said his mistakes are something he can control.
The Grizzlies cut down on the defensive breakdowns that allowed the Clippers to dominate on the boards in the first two games. Randolph, the league’s top offensive rebounder, and Gasol are a big reason why Memphis ranked fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game this season.
Being so long and deep allowed the Clippers to outrebound Memphis 87-61 with guards getting plenty of easy boards off tipped balls.
The struggles rebounding caught the Grizzlies a bit by surprise. Allen and Conley combined for one rebound in Game 1, though Allen has 19 combined over the past two games. Conley had six Thursday night.
“It’s tough because it’s new to us,” Conley said. “We’re so used to dominating the glass with Marc and Zach we never had to come back and get rebounds. So with a team that rebounds as good as we do, we have to be around the rim and around the paint just to pick up a loose ball or a tipped ball, and those are the type of plays that help us get over the edge.”
Rebounds are at a premium with Randolph literally wrestling with Clippers forward Blake Griffin so much that double fouls have been called on them in each game this series. Gasol also has his hands full with DeAndre Jordan and Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf off the bench.
Griffin said the Clippers did a pretty good job in the first two games helping out their big men and containing Randolph.
“So do that,” Griffin said.
Memphis hasn’t beaten the Clippers in consecutive games since taking Games 5 and 6 in their opening series a year ago. Randolph said they expect both Paul and Griffin to come out aggressive.
“We got to be ready ourselves,” Randolph said. “We got to play defense and match the energy.”
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