LOS ANGELES -- As if the Memphis Grizzlies needed a wider door to walk through after blowing it off the hinges with two decisive wins in Games 3 and 4, they got it with the news of an injury to Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin before Game 5 of their Western Conference playoff series.
Memphis proceeded to walk right into Staples Center, kick up their feet and beat the Clippers 103-93 to take a 3-2 series lead, with a chance to close things out Friday in Memphis.
Griffin badly injured his right ankle in practice Monday, throwing the Clippers for a major loop. He managed to play Tuesday, but wasn't able to do much.
Griffin labored through 19 minutes before leaving for good midway through the third quarter. He scored just four points with five rebounds and five assists.
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 side kick and a thorn in the Clippers' side, was held in check for the most part, scoring 15 points with six rebounds, but Mike Conley picked up the slack with 20 points.
While leaving the Clippers desperately searching for answers,
Griffin's absence meant the heavy lifting went to Chris Paul, who did what he could by scoring 35 points.
But he got very little help from anyone else, with Jamal Crawford lending a hand with 15 points.
That wasn't nearly enough against the surging Grizzlies, who now have complete control of this 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.
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 Memphis big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who have terrorized the Clippers. That was a point of contention the last two days. "We haven't been physical enough to take Zach, Gasol or even their guards at times off the glass," Clippers coach Vinny 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. ... Gasol and Randolph's relentlessness have 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."