Game Notes: Grizzlies at Clippers
Rasual Butler takes over?
by Sean Ceglinsky
Heading into the weekend, I knew Allen Iverson was going to be in town, so all other plans were put on hold.
That said, my goal on Saturday was to arrive at Staples Center well in advance for the Grizzlies and Clippers game. Getting a jump start on the rest of the media guys was a must, perhaps my only chance to catch up with AI before he was bombarded with questions about his playing time, or lack thereof, with the Memphis.
My approach, the whole early bird catches the worm deal, should’ve worked. Iverson, however, had other ideas. Apparently, hours before the tipoff, the temperamental superstar was granted permission to leave the team for personal reasons and his absence caused quite the stir right up until the two teams assembled at midcourt for the opening tip.
The Grizzlies could have used Iverson, that’s for sure, even if it was in a limited role off the bench. Without him, they managed to keep things close throughout, but ultimately, came up short as the Clippers won their third game in a row, this time, 113-100.
That’s right, I said it, or wrote it, for that matter…
The Clippers won their third game in a row.
*** Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, obviously frustrated, had this to say: “I understand star power, and that’s to be expected. I wouldn’t mind even talking about Allen’s star power if it was about the game and his performance during the game, versus what Allen has said and what he will or won’t do. It’s a personal issue… I have no other information.”
*** That’s fine, I knew I wasn’t going to get a straight answer from Hollins about the Answer. No one would give up anything about Iverson. The public relations people for Memphis are well-versed on how to be tight-lipped. They have that routine down pat.
*** Getting a chance to see Hasheem Thabeet up close, you gain a better understanding of just how big the 7-3 and 275-plus pound rookie is. The second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft looks loose during warm-ups. Wonder how much playing time he‘ll receive. My guess is, not much. The game is far too fast for him right now.
*** Baron Davis never ceases to amaze me. He’s always having so much fun, or at least making it seem that way. While stretching on the sideline, he’s cracking jokes with Clippers announcer Frank Ralph Lawler, you know the guy with that one coined phrase: “Oh Me, Oh My!”
*** Talk about slow starts, the Clippers are stinking up the joint. They don’t score their first basket, a Chris Kaman jumper, until the 10-minute mark. They finally reach double digits at 5:13 on hook shot by Kaman. Ugly, ugly basketball. Hope this isn’t a sign of things to come or this could be a long night.
*** No Iverson, no problem. The Grizzlies have Rudy Gay. He loses Baron Davis at the top of the key, drives down the lane, takes some contact from Kaman but finishes with a left-handed layup over Marcus Camby to give Memphis a 19-14 lead with 4:02 left.
*** Rasual Butler tries slowing down Gay. It doesn’t work. With a spin move, he frees up an open look and buries a 20-foot jumper to extend the advantage to 27-18. Gay is feeling it, no doubt about it, and has 14 points in the opening 12 minutes. The Grizzlies are up six at the end of one.
*** Trailing 36-25, Sebastian Telfair comes off the bench for the Clippers and provides a spark. He finds Eric Gordon for a three-pointer, hits jumper of his own, and in between handing out assists to Craig Smith and Al Thornton, he makes a layup to cut the deficit down to two points at 8:30.
*** Telfair isn’t done. Minutes later, out of the corner of his eye, he spots DeAndre Jordan cutting to the goal, feeds the ball to the big man, who splits a pair defenders, takes off from just outside of the restricted area and dunks to give the Clippers their first lead of the game, 41-40. The crowd, all of sudden, is into the game.
*** Following a brief stint on the bench, Davis re-enters the game for the Clippers at 5:41 and is re-energized, scoring eight quick points. This game is getting interesting as the Grizzlies lead 60-55 at intermission.
*** Former Clipper Zach Randolph gets it going, exacting some revenge against his old teammates by scoring 6 points over a three-plus minute stretch to give Memphis a 74-73 lead at 4:13. He ends up stuffing the stat sheet, finishing the night with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists in his return to Los Angeles.
*** Gay uses Thornton, first setting him up with a jab step, then driving baseline and taking off from underneath the backboard, ending up on the other side of the basket to throw down a thunderous one-handed dunk. Not sure if Gay will make SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays, but he should for that move. The Grizzlies lead 80-75 at the 2:15 mark.
*** Leave Gordon out alone on the perimeter and he’ll make you pay each and every time. Not sure if the Grizzlies have figured this out yet as he drains another three-pointer, this one from way downtown to keep things close. Craig Smith follows with a basket to tie the score, 82-82, at the end of three.
*** Ladies and gentlemen, there’s been an OJ Mayo sighting. After being quiet for a majority of the game, he begins heating up, scoring 6 of his 8 points in the early moments to give Memphis a four-point lead with 7:18 left.
*** The Clippers respond, Butler in particular. He hits a three-pointer at 3:12 to give Los Angeles a 105-101 advantage, a big bucket given the fact that the Clippers never led by more than one point before that.
*** The Grizzlies have one last chance, and with the ball in Gay’s hands, Memphis has to like its chances. His three-pointer, however, misses its mark at the buzzer, due in large part to Butler having a hand in his face. The Clippers win, 113-110, and Gay finishes with 33 points, two shy of his career-high.
*** In the locker room afterward, no one from Memphis wanted to talk about Iverson. With some prodding, Mike Conley offered this up: “It’s tough when you have somebody in the rotation and get used to it, and then somebody goes out of the rotation. You have to get used to a whole different routine. But we have to adjust and get past it.”
*** Kaman played well. Then again, he has all season. He scored 26 points, on 8-16 shooting from the field and a 10-12 effort from the line, and added 9 rebounds and 4 assists. “We scraped it out tonight and we got some stops down the stretch,” he said. “It was good to get another win. We’ve just got to keep building on this. I’m happy where we’re at right now, but we’ve got to continue to play hard and try to get some more wins.”
*** After opening the season with four consecutive losses, Camby is glad the Clippers are starting to figure things out. He said: “Right now, we’re playing good basketball. Those first four games of the season, we were playing against four tough opponents. We were in those games for the most part. We just weren’t able to finish them.”