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Crawfo, Clippers hold off Grizzlies in opener

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Lost in the hype of two other major Los Angeles arrivals -- with the Lakers' Dwight Howard and Steve Nash demanding most of the attention during the offseason -- Jamal Crawford's signing by the Los Angeles Clippers went largely unnoticed.

Crawford found the spotlight Wednesday.

The 32-year-old guard had a game-high 29 points, and the Clippers broke away from the Memphis Grizzlies late to take a 101-92 win at Staples Center in the season opener for both teams.

A rematch of the teams' hotly contested 2012 first-round playoff matchup, won by the Clippers in seven games, Wednesday's game was chippy from the start. Both teams doled out hard fouls, and the score remained close for much of the night. A Crawford 3-pointer with 2:41 left put the Clippers up by six, though, and the Grizzlies never got closer.

"It was crazy in there," said Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. "Their team is extremely physical. We tried to play physical, too. We knew there would be some pushing and shoving, but we got the win, and that's what counts."

Crawford, who played nearly 30 minutes off the bench, led six Clippers in double figures. The balanced scoring compensated for off nights from both Chris Paul and Griffin, who combined for 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Paul had 12 assists for Los Angeles, which committed 22 turnovers, including nine by center DeAndre Jordan.

With Crawford leading the way, the Clippers' bench outscored the Grizzlies' reserves 49-17.

"Our bench was amazing," Paul said. "In the first half, when we needed a spark, they brought it. In the second half, when we needed a spark, they brought it."

Rudy Gay had 25 points and Marc Gasol added 20 for Memphis, which shot 38 percent from the field and 2-for-14 from 3-point range. The Grizzlies missed their last six shots down the stretch and did not hit a field goal during the last 4 minutes, 55 seconds.

"The Clippers and their fans were really into it, and they really played aggressive," said Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who had seven points on 2-of-10 shooting and turned the ball over six times. "We had to match that aggressiveness, but we didn't make shots. We didn't shoot the ball well, and we didn't make plays down the stretch.

The Clippers controlled most of the first half before the Grizzlies moved in front with a late run.

Los Angeles led by 12 with just less than five minutes left in the second quarter, but the Grizzlies chipped away quickly. Memphis tied the score less than three minutes later and eventually went into the locker room up 53-49.

Gasol had 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first half, while Gay added 12 points for the Grizzlies, who forced 15 Los Angeles turnovers.

Crawford, brought in by the Clippers from the Portland Trail Blazers to provide instant offense off the bench, lived up to his billing. Crawford had 15 first-half points to lead all scorers, bolstering a starting lineup that provided just 22 points through two quarters.

"Our bench was really the difference tonight in the game," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Jamal Crawford, you can tell one of the reasons we brought him here is that he's an explosive player."

Griffin had just five points and four rebounds in the first half, and Paul added just three points as the Clippers scored only three points in the last 4:54 of the half.

NOTES: Clippers forward Matt Barnes missed the game because of a one-game suspension from the NBA for his offseason arrest. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge after a run-in with a Manhattan Beach, Calif., police officer. ... Los Angeles veterans Chauncey Billups (Achilles) and Grant Hill (knee) also were sidelined. ... Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph had 10 first-half rebounds but shot 3-for-11 from the field before the break. He finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. ... The Clippers' next game is a "road" contest Friday against the Lakers at Staples Center. The Grizzles play Friday in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.

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