After finding themselves down by as many as 27 points, the Clippers stormed back in historic fashion Sunday night to beat the Grizzlies 99-98 in Memphis.
The Grizzlies led by 21 midway through the final quarter but gave up a 26-1 run to an energized Clipper team.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, Nick Young, and Reggie Evans were at the heart of the comeback, tying the record for the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history.
“We failed to hold that lead,” said Mayo. “We have to learn from this right now. We’re going to come back in Game 2 with an attitude that we can’t quit.”
For the Grizzlies, hitting makeable shots is going to be key to victory in game two as they hope to rebound quickly from a demoralizing defeat. They had plenty of good looks at the basket, but missed easy shots and layups and converted only one field goal in the final 9:13 of the game, while the Clippers seemed to be hitting everything. During the fourth quarter the Grizzlies shot 26.3 percent (5-for-19) and scored just 13 points.
Mike Conley was 5-5 from three-point range and finished with 17 points, Rudy Gay scored 19 and grabbed seven rebounds, and OJ Mayo had 17 points off the bench, but Zach Randolph was bothered by the defense of Reggie Evans and finished with just six points on 3-13 shooting.
Turnovers also cost the Grizzlies as LA capitalized on the fast break, hitting three-pointers in transition before Memphis could set up their defense. Nick Young hit three consecutive threes to bring the score from 96-84 to 96-93 and give the Clippers the confidence they needed to finish the job.
Coach Lionel Hollins now needs to rally his troops and not let them lose all of the momentum they had built by defeating top teams leading up to the playoffs. The Grizzlies defeated Oklahoma City, Miami and Dallas all in the same week at the start of April, which put the NBA on notice and made Memphis a sleeper pick in the playoffs.
Now following a devastating loss, we’ll see how the Grizzlies respond. Hopefully they’ve learned a valuable lesson that will stay with them throughout the playoffs: don’t become complacent.
“We got too comfortable I think. We were up 27, but they are the type of team that can always be in the game,” said Gay. “I think it’s probably good that it happened today in the first game, we can’t be too comfortable and we learned that lesson today.”
If they can refocus, they’ll be looking back in June on that Game 1 loss, laughing and wondering how they could have ever been so sloppy.