MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Clippers came here with a comfortable 2-0 lead in their series with Memphis. They leave with the series even and forward Matt Barnes saying they got "punked" on the Grizzlies' home floor.
After talking of being the aggressor, the Clippers let the Grizzlies get out to a quick start Saturday and run away for a 104-83 victory that knotted the first-round series at 2-all.
"I think they were the aggressors," said reserve guard Jamal Crawford, who finished with 12 points. "Whenever you're the aggressors, things tend to go your way. We were the aggressors the first two games, and now we have to get back to it."
Apparently, Barnes let his teammates know in the locker room afterward that they not only weren't aggressive, but let the Grizzlies control the style of play. As media walked in, the Clippers' reserve forward succinctly said Los Angeles got "punked" in the two losses.
"It shouldn't come to that," Clippers star Chris Paul said when asked about what Barnes said. "Nothing is malicious out there, but it is a dogfight. Both teams fighting for their playoff lives, and I think we have to approach it that way."
Paul and Blake Griffin each had 19 points for the Clippers, with Griffin also grabbing 10 rebounds for his first double-double of this postseason.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph provided an inside dominance for Memphis, each scoring 24 points. Gasol grabbed 13 rebounds and Randolph nine as Memphis had a 45-28 advantage on the boards. Tayshaun Prince and Mike Conley added 15 points apiece, Conley handing out a postseason team-record 13 assists.
Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter finished with 10 points each.
Memphis' victory means both teams have won on their home courts through the first four games, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
"We just got beat up on the glass and everywhere," said guard Chauncey Billups, one of two Los Angeles starters held scoreless. "The big boys really played well for them. But this is why we worked so hard to get home-court advantage. It's a three-game series now, obviously two games in LA, if it goes that far."
Los Angeles found itself down early as Prince, who struggled through the first three games got out to a fast start. But the Clippers weathered the early burst and were up 47-46 lead at the break behind 14 points from Paul, who scored in the final second to give Los Angeles the lead.
Whatever the Clippers did in the first half vanished after halftime. Memphis outscored the Clippers 58-36 in the second half, and the Clippers hit only a third of their shots. They managed only 16 points in the final quarter as coach Vinny Del Negro finally surrendered, sitting his starters for the final couple of minutes.
"Well, obviously, the fourth quarter wasn't our best quarter," Del Negro said. "They beat us up on the glass again, second-chance points. It was a four-point game going into the fourth, and then we couldn't get anything done offensively."
The Grizzlies' defense during the last two games has complemented the increased rebounding. Memphis' rebounding advantage included a 13-5 margin on the offensive glass and that resulted in 22 second-chance points compared to only two for the Clippers.
"We can't come in here and play like that," Griffin said. "In stretches, we were OK, but for the most part, that is not how you come in."
Defensively, Memphis surrendered 112 and 93 points in the first two games in Los Angeles. But the Grizzlies held the Clippers to 82 and 83 here — two of the lowest-scoring games in the Clippers' postseason history and more in keeping with the Grizzlies reputation as a team that held opponents scoring below 90 points a game the entire season.
"There's no question, we're going to have to get back to playing the way we did the first two games," Del Negro said.
The Memphis win means the Grizzlies will have at least one more game in front of their fans, no matter what happens Tuesday night in Game 5.
"I didn't want to come back here by any means, by any means," Paul said. "Now, we have to."
If the series follows form, it means two of the remaining three games will be at the Staples Center where the Clippers not only won the first two games this postseason but also went 32-9 there in the regular season.
"That's why you work so hard for home court," Paul said. "Now, we got to go back to LA."
NOTES: The Grizzlies went 15-3 in the regular season when Gasol posted a double-double. ... Memphis improved to 17-1 when shooting at least 50 percent. ... The Grizzlies sold out their 12th straight postseason game. ... The Grizzlies played without veteran guard Keyon Dooling, who sat out with a strained muscle. ... Prince had only 10 points in the first three games combined. ... The Clippers shot 13 of 39 in the second half, compared to 20 for 35 for Memphis.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company