LOS ANGELES -- As if the Memphis Grizzlies needed a wider door to walk through after blowing it off the hinges with decisive wins in Games 3 and 4, they got it with the news of an injury to Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin before Game 5 of their Western Conference playoff series.
Memphis proceeded to beat the Clippers 103-93 Tuesday at Staples Center to take a 3-2 series lead. The Grizzlies have a chance to close things out Friday in Memphis.
"It certainly feels better than going home down 2-3," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins quipped.
Meanwhile, the Clippers must make do with an extremely limited Griffin -- if any Griffin at all.
"It's a tough blow. We're battling for our playoff lives," Clippers point guard Chris Paul said.
Griffin badly injured his right ankle in practice Monday, throwing the Clippers for a loop. He managed to play Tuesday, but wasn't able to do much. The All-Star labored through 20 minutes before leaving for good midway through the third quarter. He finished with four points, five rebounds and five assists.
"He was struggling to move, so I decided to pull the plug," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
With Griffin limited, Grizzlies forward Zack Randolph had his way in the paint, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Marc Gasol, Randolph's interior sidekick and a thorn in the Clippers' side, had 21 points and eight rebounds, and guard Mike Conley added 20 points.
"Our focus has been great the last couple of games," said Memphis forward Tayshaun Prince, who scored 15 points. "Hopefully we can maintain it."
Meanwhile, the Clippers are desperately searching for answers as they head to Memphis needing a win to extend their season.
"We've done it before," Del Negro said of winning two games in Memphis. "We did it at the end of the season."
But that was with a healthy Griffin.
"We have to be desperate," Paul said.
Griffin's absence meant the heavy lifting went to Paul, who did what he could by scoring 35 points. However, he got very little help, as the rest of the starters combined for 18 points.
Jamal Crawford lent a hand with 15 points off the bench.
That wasn't nearly enough against the surging Grizzlies, who now have complete control of the series. The Clippers can only hope Griffin can give them more than he did Tuesday, but the way he was hobbling around Staples Center, that might be wishful thinking.
"We have to do it by committee," Paul said. "You don't replace Blake Griffin with one player."
The Grizzles now turn their attention to closing the Clippers out.
"I heard Tayshaun, Zach and those guys telling everybody, 'Stay focused, no celebrating. Let's focus on the task at hand,'" Memphis guard Tony Allen said. "That's Game 6, and we want to go home with a sense of urgency to play our style of basketball and do the things that got us to this point. We're ambitious, and we want to keep fighting."
Griffin can only hope he plays.
"I've never had a high ankle sprain before," he said. "Normally I can go the next day or a couple days later."
NOTES: The Clippers' primary goal Tuesday was to improve on the boards after getting badly beaten off the glass the in Games 3 and 4. The key, of course, was dealing with Gasol and Randolph, who have terrorized the Clippers. "We haven't been physical enough to take Zach, Gasol or even their guards at times off the glass," Del Negro said. "They played more of their tempo, they were the aggressor. We played pretty well at times but not good enough especially in the fourth quarters in Memphis to put any pressure on them. We have to rebound the basketball. You can't run without the ball." Despite Griffin's ailment, the Clippers hung tough on the boards Tuesday, losing the rebounding battle just 42-40. ... The relentlessness of Gasol and Randolph has taken the Clippers by surprise. "They're bulls out there, they're big, heavy guys," Del Negro said. "We're looking for that basketball instead of face-guarding them a lot."