I’m going to have a hard time describing this one perfectly. I had been making little mental notes throughout the game of things to discuss later on, but honestly? All that’s out the window now. All I that matters is Chris Paul’s final shot somehow going in, making the grizzlies odds of going out in the first round for a second straight year significantly higher.
When the Clippers went up by 12, you felt the air getting sucked of the Grizzlies. I wondered where the tough, gritty team we’ve all come to know and love had gone. The Clippers were beating them with flash, while every good play the Grizzlies made just seemed to be offset by another mistake. It was getting rough to watch.
But of course, had the Grizzlies just faded out like they did in Game 1, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Sure, they’d still be down 2-0, but I could have accepted that fate long before it happened, and likely been completely calm when the final buzzer rang. Instead, the Grizzlies had to toy with me, slowly clawing their way back into it until suddenly, it was a tie game with 13 seconds left.
It started slow, even slow by Grizzlies standards, with Conley drawing a foul and hitting 1 of 2, giving the Grizzlies their first point of the fourth quarter. Then, he drew another foul and hit ‘em both. Nine point game. Minor signs of life.
A huge turning point happened when Tony Allen bricked two free throws, but Z-Bo grabbed the board on the second missed, tipped it, drew a foul of his own, and made the shot. A lost opportunity had suddenly become a three point play. That’s when I knew the thought it my head saying “we can do this” wasn’t mere delusion. The Grizzlies still had some fight in them, and they were taking it to the very end.
At this point, the game essentially became a duel between Mike Conley and Chris Paul. Both made key shots, while occasionally taking their time to set up their teammates. It seems wrong to say Conley lost this battle. The Clippers won the game, partly because CP3 had the last shot, but Conley and Paul were about as even as you can get. Really, this might have been the best game Mike Conley had in the NBA, and it’s a shame to see him come out on the losing end. Save for a few unfortunate free throws, he pretty much did everything right.
When Marc Gasol’s dunk made it 91-91 with 13 seconds on the clock, I had that sinking feeling that it was way too much time. I was so sure of this that I had already begun writing the postscript for the Grizzlies 93-91 loss to the Clippers in my head. Then, just to screw with me one last time, it looked like the Grizz were going to stand their ground. CP3 was being guarded tightly, there was no way he was going to get a good shot off. He took a low percentage shot, and it went in anyway, and I let out an anguished groan that woke up the entire house (I live in the Eastern Time Zone, so this was around 1:30 AM). I likely have some groveling to do tomorrow.
The only silver lining I can provide is that all the Clippers have really done is hold serve; they’ve won two games they were supposed to win. Now, the series goes back to Memphis, and if the Grizzlies can take the next two on their own court, the pressure will be on the Clippers for Ga 5. We’ll see if things get any better on Thursday, but in the mean time, it’s not going to be easy to walk this one off.