Chris Paul's runner gives Clippers a 2-0 lead

Los Angeles Clippers Lamar Odom (3rd R) fouls Memphis Grizzlies Zach Randolph during Game 2 of...

Los Angeles Clippers Lamar Odom (3rd R) fouls Memphis Grizzlies Zach Randolph during Game 2 of their NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals basketball playoff series in Los Angeles, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange

, Last Updated: 4:54 AM ET

LOS ANGELES — Tony Allen knew the stakes, and more important, he knew his job.

Don’t let Chris Paul go right.

Twenty minutes after everything went all wrong, Allen sat sullenly in the Memphis Grizzlies’ locker room, the play rewinding in his head enough to wear out the tape, every time coming out the same way.

Right hand, hesitation, stutter-step, body, cushion, floater, bucket, 0-2 series deficit.

If only he’d forced Paul left, Allen mused, rubbing his goatee and staring into the distance.

If only.

Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers’ All-Star point guard, drove on the all-league defender with time dwindling and the game tied, burst to the hoop and dropped in the game-winning runner as time expired to send the Grizzlies back to Memphis facing an uphill climb in their Western Conference quarterfinal matchup. The Clippers emerged with a 93-91 win Monday night at Staples Center.

“Chris is just unselfish,” Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He has a knack and a will and a desire to step up in those moments. That’s what star players do. That’s the best part of the game, if you’re competitive, if that’s what you love.”

In a 21-point Game 1 win, the Clippers eliminated the Grizzlies’ big men. Los Angeles built a 47-23 rebounding advantage while holding Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to six total rebounds and 29 points.

On Monday night in Game 2, the Clippers delivered with speed and precision, and from the likeliest of sources.

Unlike the thrashing two days earlier, Memphis offered a fight Monday, falling short after climbing back into the game with a late run sparked by Mike Conley.

The Memphis point guard had five of his game-high 28 points during a 15-6 run that brought the Grizzlies back after they trailed by nine with just under seven minutes left.

Los Angeles had one last shot attempt after Conley found Marc Gasol for a wide-open dunk to tie the game at 91 with 14 seconds left.

Paul drove on Allen, laid his body into him after a stutter-step, then created enough room to let loose the game-winner, which glanced off the glass.

“We wanted to (isolate) them — we tried to get Mike Conley to switch on me because we know Tony Allen is their best defender,” Paul said. “He played some great defense — every time I had a little space to go left, he shut it down, and I just looked at the clock and had to let it go.”

Added Memphis coach Lionel Hollins: “We were on him. What can you do? He made a tough shot. He’s a great player, that’s what great players do. They win games.”

Aside from a short third-quarter lull, when the Grizzlies used a 12-4 run to take a one-point lead, the Clippers appeared headed to another easy win as Paul shined and Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford provided the backup.

Paul had 24 points and nine assists and hit all six of his free-throw attempts. Griffin bounced back from a poor effort in the Clippers’ series-opening blowout win, when he had just 10 points and five rebounds, to score 21 points and add eight rebounds.

“I was just being aggressive from the start,” Griffin said. “Teammates did great job of getting me the ball early, we did a great job of spacing the floor and getting easy buckets.”

Crawford — spurned earlier in the day for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award, which went to the New York Knicks’ J.R. Smith — had 10 of his 15 points in the second quarter. The Clippers’ bench outscored Memphis’ bench 30-11 for the game.

The Grizzlies relied heavily on a starting lineup that featured four of five starters playing at least 38 minutes, with Randolph hampered by foul trouble and only playing 31.

Conley dominated the Los Angeles backcourt for much of the game, hitting nine of 18 shots from the field — but just one of five from 3-point range.

Gasol had 17 points and seven rebounds, and Allen added 16 points and 10 rebounds and one massive frown.

“If I sent him left and he hit that shot, I could live with the result,” Allen said. “I was told to not let him go right, and I let him go right.”

 


Videos

Photos