The Los Angeles Clippers rode a great bench performance, especially in the decisive fourth quarter Saturday, to a 1-0 series lead and they will try to keep it up Monday night when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Clips and Grizz were embattled in a close one on Saturday at the Staples Center, but the reserves, the second-leading scoring bench in the NBA, exploded in the fourth.
The second unit went on a 9-1 run at the start of the final frame and the Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 35-15 over the final 10 minutes. Three L.A. bench players scored in double figures as the Clippers won, 112-91.
"We have the best bench in the league and when they bring it like that," said Chris Paul. "I mean we sat in the fourth quarter until there was like five minutes left. Most teams can't do that and I stay in Bledsoe's ear because he's the catalyst. He's the guy that's a game changer and when he's playing with that aggressive mentality on both ends of the court then we're tough to beat."
Bledsoe scored 13 of his 15 points in the final 12 minutes. He went 6-for-6 from the field in the fourth, handed out four assists and grabbed six rebounds.
"I don't kind of know when I'm getting back in," said Bledsoe, who had 15 points on the night. "So, I just try to use my minutes the best way I can just by helping my team."
Jamal Crawford (13) and Matt Barnes (10) joined Bledsoe in double digits among the reserves.
Paul was the leading scorer with 23 points. Chauncey Billups chipped in 14, followed by 13 from Caron Butler and 10 from Blake Griffin.
Perhaps what was most impressive about the Clippers' victory on Saturday was the way they dominated the glass. They outrebounded the Grizzlies, 47-23.
"I was proud of the way we executed our game plan keeping them off the boards," said Griffin. "The biggest thing was the offensive rebounding; not allowing them to get second chance points is huge."
The sentiment was echoed in the opposing locker room.
"We got beat at our own game. They got second-chance points," Memphis center Marc Gasol said. "They did a good job of moving the ball. I'm worried about us. We have to play better. We have to attack the boards."
Jerryd Bayless paced the Grizzlies with 19 points off the bench, followed by Gasol's 16. Zach Randolph added 13 and Mike Conley contributed 12 points.
Gasol and Randolph, one of the best big-men combinations in the league, tallied six rebounds combined against the Clippers.
When these two teams met in last year's Western Conference quarterfinals, the Clippers overcame a 21-point deficit to win Game 1 in Memphis. The Grizzlies only managed to win once in Los Angeles, but the Clippers prevailed in seven games.
The 21-point margin of victory on Saturday was the second-largest in franchise history. The team beat the Phoenix Suns by 25 in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals back in 2006.