Grizzlies-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Clippers know they probably won't get away with another inept performance at the free-throw line in the Western Conference playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies.

''We just can't let leads go like that, when we're up six with, I think, 40 seconds left,'' Nick Young said Sunday. ''We had everybody in here shooting free throws today.''

The Clippers missed 17 of 30 free throws and almost squandered a six-point lead in the final 23 seconds Saturday, beating the Grizzlies 87-86 only after Rudy Gay missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

Game 4 is Monday night, when the Clippers hope to take a 3-1 series lead.

Chris Paul, who had 24 points and 11 assists, was the only Clippers player to do well at the line. He made seven of eight, including two with 23 seconds left for the six-point lead.

The Clippers took six more free throws, missing the last five. Gay hit two 3-pointers to keep the Grizzlies in it.

''Some players haven't been in that situation, especially with us being in the playoff atmosphere,'' Young said. ''You've really kind of got like the game in your hands when you're at the free-throw line. That can be a lot of pressure, with everybody telling you, 'We need this shot. We need you to make these free throws.

''We've just got to take care of home court, really. You shouldn't have that much pressure at home.''

Coach Vinny Del Negro agreed.

''The bottom line is you've got to make the free throws,'' he said. ''We've struggled with that periodically throughout the season. We were able to overcome it but you have to be very good in a lot of other areas when you miss that many free throws.

''I give the guys a lot of credit for buckling down in the fourth quarter and getting stops and making plays when we had to. We gave them some opportunities by missing some free throws. We're going to be aggressive and get to the line as much as possible and guys are going to have to step up and make them.''

The Grizzles made 30 of 39 free throws. But they went nearly seven minutes without making a field goal, until Gay buried a 3 with 12.9 seconds left to pull to 86-83.

Del Negro said it's been a big boost mentally to have forward Caron Butler being able to play despite breaking his non-shooting left hand in Game 1. Butler missed the second game but played Saturday with a split, getting four points and three rebounds.

''It felt comfortable enough to be somewhat effective out there, so I gave it a shot,'' he said. ''The role that I'm playing right now, what I'm doing, I can play with no hands. It's not a big deal. I can play.''

The Grizzlies canceled their practice on Sunday, opting to just watch film.

Gay said there were no secrets to why the Grizzlies have lost twice in this series, including the opener when they blew a 27-point lead at home.

''I think we know what we can be,'' he said Saturday. ''The first game we got away from how we played basketball. When we play our way, I feel as though we are a better team.''

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