Grizzlies, Clippers clash in huge Western Conference showdown
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the best in the Western Conference square off Saturday night when the Memphis Grizzlies visit the Los Angeles Clippers with huge playoff positioning at stake.
The Grizzlies beat the Utah Jazz by a point on Friday night to earn a half- game lead over the scorching-hot San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division. The Houston Rockets are a game behind, but the Western Conference standings are fluid with less than a week to go.
The Clippers are tied with the Rockets for fourth place in the Western Conference, but the Portland Trail Blazers will host a first-round series by virtue of winning the Northwest Division.
Memphis has won two straight, including Friday's 89-88 victory over the Jazz, which started a three-game road trip. It ends Monday night against the conference-leading Golden State Warriors.
Marc Gasol's controversial foul just before the buzzer nearly came back to haunt the Grizzles, but Memphis managed to escape EnergySolutions Arena with a victory.
Memphis led 89-86 with just over a second left to play, but the Jazz found new life when Gasol was whistled for a foul on his block of Gordon Hayward's corner 3. Hayward converted the first two free throws of his game-deciding trip to the charity stripe, but when his final attempt drew back iron, the Grizzles clinched the much-needed win.
"These last three [games] for us are important. We have to take [it] one game at a time," Randolph said.
Gasol finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Beno Udrih added 20 points and Courtney Lee had 15.
The Grizzlies have never won the Southwest Division.
The Clippers have won four straight and 11 of their last 12.
On Tuesday, the Clippers completed a two-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers, 105-100.
Blake Griffin scored 27 points with seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Clippers. J.J. Redick also had 27 points, Chris Paul supplied 19 points with 10 assists, and DeAndre Jordan ripped 17 rebounds for LA.
"We always want to play better than we did, but you have to give them credit," Griffin said. "They hit big shots. We slipped a little bit there but we got stops down the stretch."
The Clippers routed the Lakers, 106-78, as the visitor at Staples Center on Easter Sunday.
Jamal Crawford returned to the court for the first time since March 2 due to a calf injury, and recorded four points in under 19 minutes of action in the win.
The Clippers host the Nuggets on Monday, then close the season in Phoenix on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies have won two of three meetings this season with one of those victories coming in Los Angeles. Including the postseason, Memphis has won three in a row as the visitor in this series.