A simple adjustment led to a breakout night for Blake Griffin. In Games 1-3, the Clippers pounded the ball to Griffin on the low block, where he struggled to get around the length of the Grizzlies’ big men. On Monday night, he caught the ball on the move and attacked decisively. Instead of trying to smash through the Grizzlies, he used his speed, ball handling and footwork to blow right past them.
Chris Paul, a distributor by choice and a scorer by necessity, dominated all facets of the game, approaching a triple-double with just a single turnover in his most complete performance of the series. After uncharacteristically failing to get off a potential game-winning shot at the regulation buzzer, Paul dominated the overtime period with his deadly fall-away.
In Game 3, the man they call Tough Juice inspired his teammates by playing with a broken left hand. On Monday night, he was more than just an inspiration, he was a contributor. Caron Butler sparked the home crowd early with eight first-quarter points and frustrated Rudy Gay with pressure defense. When scuffles broke out under the basket after hard fouls, Butler was the cool-headed veteran who removed Griffin from the chaos.
Before Game 3, the Clippers posted a Charles Barkley quote on the wall that accused them of “not being a physical team.” Well they gave as good as they got in a chippy game Monday night, diving into the first row for loose balls, challenging shots relentlessly, and generally standing toe to toe, trading punches with a desperate Memphis squad. Special kudos to Griffin, who took a half-dozen hard fouls and bounced up after every one.
If the dominant narrative out of Memphis has been that the Grizzlies are somehow losing the series despite being the superior team, Monday night’s game will do little to change it. Down 10 midway through the fourth, Memphis stormed back to force overtime, only to fall under an onslaught of CP3 jumpers. Grit-n-Grind is all good, but it’s no substitute for a go-to scorer down the stretch. A real heartbreaker.