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Clippers win playoff preview with Grizzlies

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies were 9 1/2 minutes away on Saturday night from likely having home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

And then the Los Angeles Clippers decided they didn't want to fly back to Memphis next weekend.

The Clippers, trailing 77-72 with 9:32 left, reeled off 14 consecutive points and held on for a 91-87 victory that not only pulled them into a fourth-place tie in the West but gave them the tiebreaker by winning the season-series 3-1.

If everything remains status quo in the last two games of the regular season, the Grizzlies and Clippers, both 54-26, would play each other in the first round as they did last year.

Memphis had home-court advantage last year but lost the series 4-3.

"They knew what was on the line in this game and we knew what was on the line," said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. "We talked about this game all week. We came out and took care of business. It was a physical game."

So physical, in fact, that the officiating crew of Ken Mauer, Jason Phillips and Haywoode Workman basically ignored contact inside between big men.

For instance, Zach Randolph of the Grizzlies and DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers each scored 16 points. But Randolph had just three free throw attempts and Jordan didn't have any.

"You've got to play big in the biggest moments," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We were able to do a good job defensively in the fourth quarter and overcome that."

The Grizzlies got double-doubles from Marc Gasol and Randolph. Gasol had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Randolph had 12 rebounds to go with his 16 points.

So how the Clippers overcome the one-two punch and snap the Grizzlies' 13-game home win streak while winning for a third straight time in FedExForum?

The same way they won last year in the playoffs, using a deep and talented bench. The Clippers' reserves outscored the Memphis bench 40-21, getting a boost from unlikely sources such as veteran Grant Hill.

Hill hadn't scored since late March, yet he had five points in 11:28 and played lockdown defense. The bench play was so strong that the starters didn't have to score a bunch of points, with Jordan getting all 16 of his points in the first half.

"Jordan was outstanding in the first half," Del Negro said. "He kept his emotions in check and stayed into it, but you win these type of games with everybody."

Both teams opened the game extremely cold. The Clippers led by as many as five points after Gasol picked up two quick fouls. Memphis managed to reel the pace back in when it appeared the Clips might out some serious space between the teams.

The physical play escalated in the second quarter. The Griz repeatedly tried going inside to Randolph, who was continuously hammered. Gasol had a tough quarter, having three 17-footers roll in and out, and then having trouble stopping Jordan.

In the last two minutes of the half, the Clippers scored five points off offensive rebounds. Quincy Pondexter's corner 3-pointer sent the teams to the locker room even.

The Grizzlies kept trying to hammer away on the inside in the third quarter, working Gasol and Randolph in high post-low post sets, and then flipping them. Gasol went to work, scoring eight points in the quarter while shutting out Jordan. The Grizzlies played tight team defense in the closing two minutes.

The Grizzlies led 73-68 after three quarters, but the Clippers flipped that in the first six minutes of the fourth.

"We had a nice little thing going towards the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "Then I subbed again and we weren't able to maintain."

At game's end, both teams gave each other a "see you next week" wave.

"This was like an appetizer," Gasol said. "We know each other. They know what we want to take away from them and we know what they want to take away from us."

NOTES: The Grizzlies have one home game left against Utah and need the win to set a franchise record for most home victories in a season. They've won 31, and the 2003-04 Grizzlies were 31-10. ... The Clippers had 14 steals on Saturday, five in the first 14 minutes of the game. ... Memphis lost a home sellout (5-1) for the first time this year. ... Jordan, who leads the NBA in field goal percentage, went 8 of 13 from the field after going 5 of 6 in the first quarter.
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