|Mo Williams and Kenyon Martin keyed the Clippers win Sunday. (Getty Images)|
Memphis was built around the idea of hustle plays and a dominant defense to create havoc. The Clippers were built on an outside-in attack helping to spring hyper-athletic frontcourt players. In Game 7, the Clippers morphed into something else entirely, using an inside-out attack to get timely threes, while outsmarting and outhustling the Grizzlies into another miserable fourth quarter.
Clippers 82 Grizzlies 72. Clippers advance to face San Antonio in the semifinals.
In the end, it wasn't Chris Paul or Blake Griffin. It wasn't even DeAndre Jordan or Caron Butler. It was a bench cobbled together by GM Neil Olshey through opportunistic trades and pickups from places like China who saved the day, along with a smart draft pick. Eric Bledsoe continued his strong play, just weeks back from a severe knee injury, making key steals and huge buckets. There was Kenyon Martin, signed upon his release from China, for crying out loud, nabbing big rebounds, frustrating Memphis' bigs, and hitting mid-range jumpers like it's 2004. And Reggie Evans, who struggled to get minutes in a bad Toronto defense because of his blown rotations two years ago, again came up with huge sparks of energy.
It was a complete team effort for the newest of the teams built in the superstar model. It wasn't Chris Paul, hampered by a hip injury, and, honestly, not playing especially well on top of it with turnovers, outside of a hot third quarter. It was effort in an exceptionally physical game that left both teams beaten and exhausted that carried the day for Clippers.
That effort was supposed to be what Memphis would use to carry it, but in a series marked with flops, it was the Clippers who out-toughed Memphis in a seventh and deciding game on the road.
Memphis' offense once again fell completely apart, with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 22 percent in the final frame. The Clippers attacked, swiped, challenged and corralled Memphis, and the offense crumbled. All behind a bunch of backups.
For six minutes in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 on the road, embattled coach Vinny Del Negro played a lineup of Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Reggie Evans, and Kenyon Martin. They shot 7 of 12 from the floor, held Memphis to a 65.1 offensive rating, rebounded 75 percent of all Grizzlies misses, and outscored Memphis by nine.
So it wasn't Blake Griffin coming of age, or Chris Paul burying his opponent behind clutch brilliance. It was a collective team effort from an unlikely cast of characters. It was gritty, it was a grind, and it was the Clippers' way into the second round.