LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 112-91, in the opener of their first-round Western Conference playoff series Saturday night at Staples Center. Here are three keys to the victory:
Early foul trouble equals early Memphis blues
Memphis leading scorers Zach Randolph and Mike Conley each got into early foul trouble and sat on the bench for extended minutes of the first half. Randolph, who picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, played only 4:55 in the first quarter. Referees called him for a fourth foul with 3:47 left in the third, sending him to the bench again. Conley had two fouls in the first quarter and picked up a third in the second and played 13:01 in the first half. As a result, the two were unable to find a rhythm early and scored only 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the first half. They finished with a combined 25 points, scoring 14 points in the second half and finishing 11-of-21 from the field overall, as they found a bit of a rhythm over the final two quarters.
Quick starts each quarter
The Clippers kept the Grizzlies at arm's length with fast starts in each of the first three quarters. They went up 6-0 in the first quarter and forced Memphis to call timeout just over two minutes into the game. L.A. started the second quarter on a 5-0 run that gave the team a 34-21 lead less than 1:30 into the quarter. After halftime, the Clippers stormed to a 7-2 start for a 64-53 lead and forced another early Memphis timeout with 9:45 left in the third. The Grizzlies apparently learned their lesson by the time the fourth quarter rolled around and outscored the Clippers, 7-4, to start the final period, but it was too little too late. The Clippers had outscored Memphis, 17-2, in the opening minutes of each of the first three quarters. Those 15 points were a good chunk of the 21-point final margin of victory.
Withstanding the runs
Despite the lopsided final score, this was a very close game at times. Twice during the game, the Clippers opened double-digit leads only to allow Memphis to climb back to within two points. The key was they never gave up the lead. They went ahead 34-21 early in the second quarter and appeared on the brink of blowing open the game, but the Grizzlies suddenly got hot. They scored on six consecutive possessions and Marc Gasol had a chance to cut the lead to one with 1:24 left in the half but missed a free throw. Still, Memphis, which shot 38.1 percent in the first quarter, shot 64.7 percent in the second quarter and cut a 13-point lead down to only two. Later, the Clippers took a 74-64 lead with 3:09 left in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer by Keyon Dooling cut the Clippers' lead to 77-76 with 10:11 to play. It was all L.A. after that, and the next time the Clippers had a double-digit lead, it stayed that way.