The Los Angeles Clippers won Game 7 on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies to get past the opening round of the playoffs last year. This time, they'll have to do the same thing in Game 6 just to take the rematch series back home.
And the biggest question mark Friday night will be the status of Blake Griffin.
The three-time All-Star was limited to 19 1/2 minutes in the Clippers' 103-93 loss Tuesday night because of a high ankle sprain. The injury occurred when he was taking part in post drills during Monday's practice and stepped on Lamar Odom's foot.
"I kept being optimistic," said Griffin, who finished with four points, five rebounds and five assists. "Our training staff did a great job giving me treatment. I've never had a high ankle sprain before."
Griffin was late joining teammates on the floor for warmups because he was getting his right ankle worked on. No one in the organization let on after Tuesday's workout, and coach Vinny Del Negro didn't broach the subject during his pregame briefing with reporters.
"It's tough. It's tough. B.G. tried to give it a go, like we all knew he would," said point guard Chris Paul, who tied a career playoff high with 35 points. "Right now, we're fighting for our lives. It's a tough blow, but what can you do? We've got to find a way to get through it and figure it out. That's what the playoffs are all about.
"We've got to be desperate. That's how it is," Paul added. "I've said the playoffs don't start till somebody loses at home, so I guess now they've started. We lost here at home. Now it's do or die in Memphis."
Once the game started, Griffin ignored the ankle issue and attacked the Grizzlies in the same reckless manner that has been his trademark since he came into the league. But he played only 19 minutes — six in the second half — and finished with four points, five rebounds and five assists. He also got a technical foul from referee Jason Phillips just 3 minutes into the game after scoring on a fastbreak layup and shoving center Marc Gasol's arm.
"It's just an unfortunate thing that happened," Del Negro said. "It was just a freak accident. It was a pretty bad sprain. I give Blake a lot of credit. He's got a lot of swelling in there. He had therapy all of last night and therapy today, and he battled through it. He was active, but as the game went on, it just got fatigued and sore and worse and worse. ... We wanted to protect him and make sure he was all right. I know how hard he worked. It's just unfortunate timing."
Zach Randolph scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and Mike Conley added 20 points for the Grizzlies. Gasol finished with 21 points and eight rebounds in a foul-plagued 31 1/2 minutes. He picked up his fifth with 5:39 left in the third quarter, and still managed to be a factor in the fourth.
"Zach did an amazing job under the basket," Gasol said. "He drove when he had to drive and he attacked the pain when he had to. He read every situation perfectly. But we won with defense. That's how we won. They have a tremendous team and they have so many options. So you have to be really careful."
Memphis took its biggest lead, 65-52, on Conley's three-point play with 6:28 left in the third quarter. The Grizzlies opened the fourth with a 73-65 advantage before the Clippers closed on Paul's layup and Matt Barnes' fastbreak slam off a long pass by Jamal Crawford.
From then on, it was up to Paul and the reserves to bail out the Clippers. But Randolph was too much to deal with again, following his dominant efforts in Games 3 and 4.
"It's real important just for me to have my confidence," Randolph said. "But we haven't done anything yet. We've still got one game on Friday, so we need to come in and focus and try to finish our business."
Added Del Negro: "We're not going to lay down and we're never going to give up."
Tayshaun Prince helped wrap it up with a layup and a 3-pointer in the final minutes after the Clippers got within five on a short jumper by Crawford with 1:49 remaining.
"We knew these guys were going to come out firing, which they did," Memphis guard Tony Allen said. "Our whole thing was just keeping our composure, playing hard, playing together and not letting those guys get those lobs and the highlight stuff that they normally do. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were huge for us."
During a bruising opening half, 24 fouls were called and neither team led by more than four until Gasol's three-point play gave the Grizzlies a 46-40 margin with 2:35 left. Griffin picked up his third foul on the play and his second in a span of 28 seconds.
One key sequence came when Conley hit an off-balance 11-foot bank shot with 1:08 left in the half and Clippers reserve center Ryan Hollins threw the ensuing inbounds pass right to Randolph. Moments later, Conley converted two free throws to give Memphis a nine-point lead 48 seconds before intermission.
NOTES: The Grizzlies committed only four turnovers during the first three quarters, none of which were converted into points by the Clippers. ... Memphis G Keyon Dooling returned to the lineup after missing Game 4 because of a strained muscle in his neck. ... Griffin did not get to the free throw line after going 18 for 22 in the first four games. He shot a career-high 66 percent during the regular season. ... Clippers G Chauncey Billups' only field goal was a 3-pointer. His 267 3-pointers in the postseason are the fourth-most behind Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Kobe Bryant. ... The Clippers, who beat the Grizzlies at Memphis in Game 7 of last year's opening-round playoff series, had their first winning road record in franchise history this season (24-17).