Memphis, TN – The Los Angeles Clippers stunned the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, overcoming a 27-point second-half deficit to win, 99-98, in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Memphis, which opened postseason play on its home floor for the first time in franchise history, dominated early and often, but Los Angeles closed the game with a 28-3 run and Chris Paul sealed the improbable result, making the tying and then go-ahead free throws with 23.7 seconds left.
Rudy Gay missed a short pullup jumper as time expired.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday in Memphis.
Paul, who has a strained groin, finished with 14 points and 11 assists for the fifth-seeded Clippers. Nick Young scored 19, Blake Griffin had 17 and Caron Butler had 12 before suffering a fractured left hand in the second half.
"It's just emotional," said Paul. "You have a lot invested in it."
The Grizzlies, who knocked off the top-seeded Spurs in last year's first round for their first ever series win, were paced by Gay's 19 points. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo both had 17 points and Marc Gasol finished with 14.
It was 95-71 early in the fourth when Los Angeles began its comeback. Reserve forward Reggie Evans began the surge with a layup and later gave the Clippers their first lead of the game, 97-96, with another bucket in the final minute.
In between, Young made three straight treys, the last of which cut the deficit to 96-93 with 1:47 left. Gasol then turned the ball over and fouled Griffin, who made a pair from the line. Evans' go-ahead layup came after Zach Randolph was off on a fadeaway jumper and Tony Allen's tip-in attempt rolled off the rim.
Gay answered with a short baseline jumper, but Allen reached in and fouled Paul near the free throw line on the Clippers' next possession. Paul made both free throws and Gay drove to the foul line on the other end, but his pullup jumper found the front of the rim.
"They drew first blood," said Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. "I'm disappointed that we lost but there is a lot of basketball yet to be played."
A Los Angeles victory appeared unattainable in the early going, when Memphis opened the game with a 23-9 run and held a 34-16 lead after one quarter.
Gasol had all 14 of his points in the first half and the Grizzlies were up 58-39 at the break before extending their lead to 27 in the third.
The Clippers are making their sixth playoff appearance since moving to Los Angeles in 1984... This is the first-ever postseason meeting between the teams.