The most competitive series in the first round of the NBA playoffs resumes at Staples Center on Monday when the Los Angeles Clippers aim to take a 3-1 series lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Chris Paul netted 24 points and dished out 11 assists on Saturday when the Clippers edged the Grizzlies, 87-86, in the pivotal Game 3.
Blake Griffin tallied 17 points and Randy Foye hit 4-of-5 three-point attempts, including the game-tying trey in the final minutes, en route to 16 points for Los Angeles.
Caron Butler -- who was expected to miss 4-6 weeks after fracturing his left hand in Game 1 -- played with a splint, and contributed four points.
"It felt comfortable enough to be somewhat effective out there, so I gave it a shot," Butler said. "'The role that I'm playing right now, what I'm doing, I can play with no hands. It's not a big deal."
Rudy Gay finished with 24 points, Zach Randolph chipped in 17 and Marc Gasol had 11 points to go with 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who saw Gay's potentially game-winning jumper bounce off the rim as time expired.
Asked why his team could not pull out a win, Memphis guard Mike Conley commented, "It's always the same: the little plays. The box-outs, free-throw attempts, getting to loose balls. They all really hurt us down the stretch."
Foye hit his triple on the left wing to tie it at 80 apiece, and then Paul knocked down a fadeaway jumper, stole it from Gasol, and fed Griffin on a bounce pass underneath the basket for a two-handed flush. He hit a pair at the line to give the Clippers an 86-80 lead with 23 ticks on the clock.
"I took what the defense gave me. If they're going to give me that shot, I'm going to take it," Foye said of his uncontested basket.
But the Grizzlies did not go away, taking advantage of missed opportunities down the stretch to threaten.
First Gay trimmed the deficit in half with a three, and Eric Bledsoe was quickly fouled. He made the first and, although he missed the second, Reggie Evans grabbed the board for the hosts. But Evans missed both tries from the stripe, and Gay sunk another from beyond the arc to make it a one-point game.
Bledsoe was fouled again with 8.3 seconds on the clock, and this time he missed both attempts. Gilbert Arenas came down with the rebounds, giving Memphis possession for the final shot.
Gay's try was heavily contested, however, and he did not produce the game- winner.
"The bottom line is you've got to make the free throws," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We've struggled with that periodically throughout the season. We were able to overcome it but you have to be very good in a lot of other areas when you miss that many free throws."
The Clippers were a dismal 17-of-30 from the charity stripe compared to a solid 30-of-39 effort from the Grizz.
"I give the guys a lot of credit for buckling down in the fourth quarter and getting stops and making plays when we had to," Del Negro continued. "We gave them some opportunities by missing some free throws. We're going to be aggressive and get to the line as much as possible and guys are going to have to step up and make them."
Memphis lost two of three meetings against the Clippers in the regular season. These two teams have never met in the postseason before.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is set for Wednesday back in Memphis.