Grizzlies defy odds, beat Clippers in a game of eight on five

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a poorly called game by the refs, the Grizzlies handled the Clippers on James Johnson's neck tattoo night.

When the Grizzlies and Clippers meet, fans are always in for a treat. These two teams don't like each other, they are polar opposites in many stylistic ways, and they are so evenly matched. Tonight's matchup did not disappoint.

The first quarter opened at a furious pace. The Clippers came out firing on all cylinders, particularly Blake Griffin, who is on fire recently. After tonight's performance, Griffin has scored at least 25 points 10 games in a row. The Clippers force fed him to begin the game, and the investment paid dividends. Griffin had 15 of his 28 points in the first quarter. Zach Randolph proved incapable of handling Griffin one-on-one, and Griffin proved that he is much more than a dunker as many have coined him. He was able to stand up to Z-Bo down low and finish strong in the paint as well as step out and knock down jumpers when he needed to.

As for the Grizzlies, the backcourt was shut down offensively in the first, but Marc Gasol and Randolph were able to clean up the mess down low, scoring 5 of their 6 combined buckets in the paint.

Tony Allen returned just before the end of the first quarter, and he was met with a heart-warming standing ovation. It was great to have the Grindfather back in the lineup. Allen played as if he had never left, and he played an extremely well-rounded game. He finished with 9 points on 4 of 4 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. He's baaaaaaaack.

James Johnson had to do something of note on his tattoo night, and he did just that. He exploded onto the scene in the second quarter, and he had by far the best play of the night when he performed an up fake to get DeAndre Jordan in the air before he threw the ball to himself off the glass for a dunk. It was nasty, and the crowd went nuts. The second quarter was all Johnson's, and he scored 13 of his 15 points on the night in the quarter.

Johnson stymied Griffin in the second quarter, and the Clippers announcers commented on how they have not seen a small forward be able to defend Blake Griffin this season. They failed to account for the fact that Johnson is not your ordinary small forward.

Doc Rivers made some interesting subs in the second quarter, and at one point a lineup of Darren Collison, Willie Green, Jared Dudley, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ryan Hollins graced the court. That lineup combined with the Grizzlies tightened defense in the second quarter helped the Grizzlies take a 53-50 lead headed into the half.

The pace of play continued to favor the Grizzlies in the third quarter, and both offenses struggled to find rhythm. It felt like more shots drew just glass in the third quarter than did the rim. It was a brutal shooting quarter from both teams. Gasol continued his slow but steady scoring pace, leading the Grizzlies with six points in the quarter.

The fourth quarter was more of a free throw contest than an actual game. The Grizzlies shot 11, while the Clippers shot 16. At least the discrepancy in calls was not as great in the fourth quarter as it was in the first three. Altogether the Clippers shot 43 free throws compared to 15 for the Grizzlies. It wasn't that the Grizzlies were that much more physical. It was just the Clippers were not being called for obvious contact. It can be seen as sour grapes to complain about refs, but if a team shoots nearly thirty more free throws than the other team, something not right is happening. That's all.

Randolph willed the Grizzlies to victory late in the game, scoring 6 points in the final 2:30. Mike Miller hit some big shots tonight as well. The Grizzlies were able to get him the ball on hand offs and find him for spot up opportunities, and he sank a big three to put the Grizzlies up 10 late in the game, which essentially dug the Clippers too deep of a hole to climb out of.

A win against the Clippers is always gratifying, and given how close the playoff race is in the Western Conference, every win against a conference foe is huge. The Grizzlies have now won four in a row heading into Saturday night's contest against the Charlotte Bobcats. With just 28 games left, the Grizzlies are a game behind the Dallas Mavericks for the last playoff seed. As the end of the season draws near, every game matters more than the last. Grind forth Grizzlies!

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