The Grizzlies defeated the Clippers 94-82 in Game 3 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series. Los Angeles now leads the series 2-1.
• Grizzlies come out ready. Game 3 can often produce a wide gap in intensity if the home team is down 2-0 in the series: Nothing gets the blood pumping quite like a do-or-die contest back in front of a friendly crowd and nothing lays the groundwork for a let-up on the road for the favorite than dictating the terms of the first two games.
Memphis prevailed in Game 3 by taking advantage of those circumstances, returning to their principles of high-effort defense and pounding down low to wring the joy and life out of the Clippers offense and beat their defense into submission. The photo of Tony Allen, above, provides the 1,000 words: this was a statement of pride night.
Road teams struggling to score has been a major theme of the playoffs to date, and the Clippers' 82 points was the fifth-worst output of the season. There was blame to place almost everywhere you turned, starting with Chris Paul, who tallied just eight points, four assists and five turnovers while being defended aggressively possession after possession.
"We didn't make any adjustments," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said of his team's defense on Paul. "We just did what we want to do better."
That included essentially erasing second-chance opportunities for L.A., who finished with just five offensive rebounds in a slow-down halfcourt game that afforded them few transition chances. That double whammy found the Clippers stuck settling for plenty of long, contested jumpers and coming up empty on one-and-done trips. The Grizzlies' defense controlled L.A.'s attack about as well as you can, blowing up pick-and-roll plays, preventing anything inside by sticking with cutters, and keeping Blake Griffin (16 points on 5-for-12 shooting and just two rebounds) in check throughout.
"We weren't scrambling all over the place," Hollins said. "We kept them in front of us and that helps you rebound better."
• Zach Randolph back in business. On the other end, Memphis cobbled together enough offense to win comfortably thanks to Zach Randolph, whose 27 points exceeded his Game 1 and 2 outputs combined, and the combination of Allen and Quincy Pondexter, who chipped in 13 points apiece.
The fouls in this series have been generally unpredictable and sometimes annoying; the referees generally allowed this to be a very physical game in the low post, which will favor Randolph 100 times out of 100 against the Clippers frontline. He managed six offensive rebounds, more than L.A.'s entire team, and got to the free throw line a game-high 10 times. Those aren't necessarily out of this world numbers but they jump out of the box, relative to the competition, and reinforced the degree to which Memphis managed the action on both ends.
"The rebounding was the big factor, no question about it," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro lamented. "Neither team shot it that well...We gave up a back cut for a rebound, we gave up a rebound on a free throw."
Randolph's offense, deliberate and brutal as it is, functioned as a defense against any momentum-building transition plays for the Clippers. The world, including Lob City, stops when Randolph goes to work and hits the boards for second-chance opportunities.
"It's hard to run if you don't have the ball," Del Negro said.
• The confrontation that wasn't. Outside of Halloween, you will rarely see "scary" turn into "hilarious" as quickly as it did following a Matt Barnes flagrant foul on Randolph late in the game. Barnes, Randolph, flagrant, playoffs: that's a potentially toxic combination. It just didn't unfold like you might expect. Take a look.
Randolph's "Oh no, you didn't!" initial reaction and quick walk towards a chest-to-chest bump-off instantaneously dissolved into a nuzzling of heads and an exchange of smiles. What just happened? How did that entire range of emotions unfold in less than three seconds? Who knows, but thankfully the opportunity for a series-impacting suspension was avoided.