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For nearly 48 minutes, Game 2 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies was the most hotly contested game of the young 2013 postseason. The two tough teams traded blows, with the Memphis Grizzlies mounting a furious comeback from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 91-91 on a Marc Gasol dunk with 13 seconds remaining.
Games like this one can come down to slight edges in singular moments. On Monday night, the difference was that the Clippers have Chris Paul and the Grizzlies do not.
On the Clippers' final possession, Paul took Tony Allen — one of the two or three best perimeter defenders in the NBA to the rim and banked in an extremely tough runner over the outstretched arm of Darrell Arthur. With just 0.1 seconds on the clock, the Grizzlies were unable to take a shot on the game's last play, and the Clippers left with a huge 93-91 win.
The shot exemplified everything that makes Paul the best point guard in the league: the toughness, the will, the talent, the skill, the ability to render excellent defense irrelevant, and the flair for the dramatic. While the Clippers got several stellar performances on the night, CP3 is obviously the biggest reason they're heading to Memphis for Thursday's Game 3 with a 2-0 lead in the series.
While this shot will understandably get most of the attention, the entire game was a delight. After looking very much unlike their usual tough, defensive-oriented selves in Saturday's series opener, the Grizzlies returned to action with a renewed commitment to their identity. With Allen playing 39 minutes after only 17 in Game 1, the Grizzlies frustrated the Clippers into a variety of low-percentage shots. Los Angeles held the lead more the vast majority of the second half, but there's no question that the Grizzlies looked more prepared and capable than they did in the series' first game.
Unfortunately for them, Chris Paul makes a habit of controlling games in the fourth quarter. After re-entering the game with 7:33 on the clock, CP3 had a hand in all of the Clippers' final 10 points, assisting on a Blake Griffin dunk and scoring all four of their field goals in the last 3:46. The Clips' offense was far from perfect in the final minutes, but there's no question that whatever success they did have came because of Paul's greatness.
The Grizzlies are far from out of this series, and their improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 suggests they can win all three home games at steal one at Staples Center to move on to the next round. Yet, given the circumstances, it's very possible we'll look back on this series and look at this game as their best opportunity to take the other hand. If that's the case, we'll have to acknowledge Paul's greatness once again. He's the sort of elite athlete who demands the viewer's undivided attention at all times.
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