MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Chris Paul didn't play like Chris Paul. Blake Griffin didn't play like Blake Griffin. And yet the Los Angeles Clippers still managed to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit for the second time in four games inside FedExForum to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 82-72 on Sunday in Game 7 of their first-round series of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
So the Clippers advanced.
They did it while avoiding becoming only the ninth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 advantage in a best-of-7 series. They did it while shocking a sellout crowd of 18,119 fans who skipped church -- or at least took in the early service here in the Bible Belt on this Mother's Day -- to watch the home team fall despite being an eight-point favorite in a game that tipped at 10 a.m. Clipper (Pacific) time, and despite the fact that the top two Clippers (CP3 and Blake) were hobbled.
Paul was only 7 of 17 from the field, Griffin only 3 of 11.
But it didn't matter because the Grizzlies' top players were mostly just as bad or worse in a game that at times looked more like football than basketball. Zach Randolph was smacking Griffin in the face, Marc Gasol was muscling DeAndre Jordan around the paint, and Reggie Evans was hitting anybody who dared get close to him. Things were physical. And Memphis looked sloppy. But the Grizzlies still led 56-55 when Rudy Gay banked in a shotclock-beating jumper to end the third quarter, at which point the Grizz were only 12 minutes away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals for the second consecutive year.
And then they blew it.
It wasn't as bad as that 27-point collapse in Game 1, but it was similar in that the Grizzlies' fourth-quarter struggles came while coach Lionel Hollins used questionable lineups in crucial situations. After sitting his best perimeter defender (Tony Allen) for most of Game 1's fourth quarter, Hollins made Memphis play a significant portion of Game 7's fourth quarter without Randolph, who had scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in Game 6.
Randolph only got nine points and 12 rebounds in Game 7.
So the Clippers are moving on to face the Spurs.
And the Grizzlies are going home.