And they gained an edge by beating a Grizzlies team they could face next week in the opening round of the playoffs.
Chris Paul hit a free throw with 18.3 seconds left, and the Clippers edged the Grizzlies 91-87 Saturday night in a game before a sellout crowd soaked with playoff intensity.
"Now we control our own destiny," Paul said. "Before this, we had certain things that had to happen in order for us to move up. Now, if we want home court, we control it."
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The Clippers won their fifth straight overall and took the season series 3-1 providing them the tiebreaking edge with both teams holding 54-26 records. Memphis held home-court advantage in the first-round series between the teams last year, and Los Angeles won Game 7 on the Grizzlies' home floor to advance.
This game puts them both one-half game behind Denver for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin said they talked all week about this game and how much they want home-court advantage.
"I like how we've played when we've come here," Griffin said. "Having home-court advantage is a plus on top of that."
Memphis came in with a one-game lead over the Clippers for the chance to start the postseason with home-court advantage and had won seven of its last eight. The Grizzlies lost that edge when they went cold for a couple stretches in the fourth quarter, including the last 3:33 when they scored only on Randolph's fallaway jumper with 23.5 seconds left.
"It's real frustrating because we needed this game," Randolph said. "But it is what it is. The real season starts next week, and we got to be ready whoever it may be. We just got to have our confidence to go in there whoever's here and be ready."
This game had all the intensity of the postseason with 15 ties, 10 lead changes and neither team leading by double digits.
"It was like the appetizer," Gasol said of this game with the postseason looming.
The Clippers had their biggest advantage at nine in the fourth quarter, using a 14-0 run to take control of the game for good. Memphis whittled that down to one point twice down the stretch. After Paul split a pair of free throws with 18.3 seconds left, Conley tried to past into the post and Griffin got a hand on the ball, tipping it to Matt Barnes with 3.8 seconds to go.
"You kind of knew it was coming inside, so I just worked my way around and was fortunate to get a hand on it," Griffin said. "I wish I could say I read it even more than that, and did something really cool, but nah, that was it."
Two free throws by Jamal Crawford provided the final score.
Everything about the game was close with the Grizzlies having a 48-46 edge in scoring in the paint and a 20-17 advantage on second-chance points, although the Clippers outrebounded Memphis 45-43. The Grizzlies had a 12-11 edge on fast-break points, but Los Angeles outscored Memphis 23-14 in the fourth.
"They're a great team," Crawford said. "They're coached very well. They play tough basketball. They grind it out. Every game against them has been tough. If we happen to see these guys in the playoffs, we're sure it will be a tough series again."
Memphis finished the third with five straight points to take its biggest lead at 73-68 heading to the fourth quarter. The Clippers answered with 14 straight points keyed by five apiece by Grant Hill and Eric Bledsoe. Ryan Hollins capped the spurt with a dunk for an 86-77 lead with 6:17 left.
The Grizzlies went scoreless for 3½ minutes during that stretch before Randolph finally had a putback with 6:01 remaining for the first of eight consecutive points. The last was a free throw by Conley on a technical on Hill for a defensive 3-second call with 3:34 left, pulling Memphis to 86-85. Paul then hit a long 3-pointer with 3:00 to go to give the Clippers enough of a buffer.
|Chris Paul doesn't have one of his better stat lines, but he helps the Clips win with a key free throw with 18.3 ticks left. (USATSI)|
|L.A. Clippers (54-26) «||24||27||17||23||91|
|LAC:D. Jordan 16 Pts
LAC:D. Jordan 12 Reb
LAC:C. Paul 5 Ast
|MEM:M. Gasol 18 Pts
MEM:M. Gasol 15 Reb
MEM:M. Gasol 7 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|C. Paul, PG||39||6-14||1-2||4||5||2||13|
|D. Jordan, C||36||8-13||0-0||12||0||1||16|
|B. Griffin, PF||33||5-12||2-6||9||3||2||12|
|W. Green, SG||17||4-9||0-0||2||1||3||10|
|C. Butler, SF||9||0-2||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|M. Barnes, SF||24||2-4||0-0||5||3||3||5|
|J. Crawford, SG||22||2-7||4-4||3||2||1||9|
|E. Bledsoe, PG||21||3-10||2-2||4||2||3||9|
|L. Odom, PF||15||3-4||1-2||2||2||1||7|
|R. Hollins, C||12||2-2||1-2||2||0||3||5|
|G. Hill, SF||11||2-3||0-0||1||0||1||5|
|C. Billups, PG||Did Not Play|
|R. Turiaf, C||Did Not Play|
|D. Summers, SF||Did Not Play|
|M. Wayns, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|Z. Randolph, PF||39||7-17||2-3||12||1||2||16|
|M. Gasol, C||38||7-14||4-4||15||7||2||18|
|M. Conley, PG||37||4-11||3-5||4||6||4||12|
|T. Prince, SF||34||5-10||0-0||1||0||1||13|
|T. Allen, SG||22||3-7||1-4||2||0||2||7|
|J. Bayless, PG||22||3-10||1-1||1||1||2||8|
|Q. Pondexter, SF||19||1-2||0-0||2||1||1||3|
|D. Arthur, PF||16||2-5||0-0||4||2||1||4|
|A. Daye, SF||7||1-4||0-0||0||1||1||2|
|K. Dooling, PG||4||1-2||1-1||0||0||2||3|
|E. Davis, PF||2||0-1||1-2||2||0||2||1|
|J. Leuer, PF||Did Not Play|
|D. Pittman, C||Did Not Play|
|T. Wroten, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|