Haters will insist that his perpetual wince was faked. To the rest of us, Blake Griffin clearly looked like a man trying to play through significant discomfort. What Griffin lacked in explosiveness he tried to make up with effort and force, diving and scrapping for loose balls and bullying his way to the rim. But, like with Paul, 80 percent of Griffin wasn't enough for a Clippers team that struggled to rebound without his contributions.
It didn't take long to realize Chris Paul was far from 100 percent. He played largely off the ball, delegated ballhandling duties to the other guards and rarely ventured into the paint. Even reduced, Paul found ways to stay effective as a spot-up shooter, but when he tried to find an extra gear in the four quarter it simply wasn't there, as he was stymied on several attempted drives to the rim.
If the Clips had won, they would call it The Bledsoe Game. When Bledsoe first entered, the Grizzlies had the Clips on the ropes and the crowd silent. Bledsoe's whirling chaos changed the tide. He forced turnovers. He stripped guys driving to the rim. He took charges. After five games of Paul's deliberate half-court approach, Bledsoe's get-out-and-run approach had the Grizzlies playing on their heels.
Who were those guys? All season, these Clippers have been dismissed as Griffin, Paul and a bunch of spare parts. Friday night, those spare parts almost put the Clippers in the conference semifinals. Kenyon Martin largely shut Zach Randolph down for key stretches. Mo Williams and Nick Young shook off cold nights to hit key shots late. And with 10 boards and another technical foul, the legend of Reggie Evans only continues to grow.
The Grizzlies weren't great, but they didn't have to be. Playing against a Clippers team down two fully healthy stars and struggling to score, the Grizz threatened to pull away early but were hamstrung by a combination of turnovers and cold perimeter shooting. In the end, the Grizzlies did just enough, stealing possessions on the offensive glass and benefiting from several 50-50 calls down the stretch.