HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — That’s more like it.
What we saw from the Memphis Grizzlies in their Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Clippers is the Grind House style their fans have become accustomed to and playoff fans everywhere demand from the grimiest team in the league.
They pushed the Clippers around again last night, but they didn’t let up this time (making sure they did not repeat their sins from Sunday night’s epic Game 1 failure) and evened their series at 1-1.
A little inspiration always helps. And Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins provided exactly that before the game. More from Ronald Tillery of the Comercial Appeal:
With their leader wearing the championship ring he won as a member of the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, the Grizzlies delivered an inspired performance — this time, over four quarters — and left with a 105-98 Game 2 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night in FedExForum.
Hollins said he simply found the ring after misplacing it and wore the piece of jewelry with no intent to send a message. But players noticed.
“He did it (won a title) in his second year,” Griz guard O.J. Mayo said. “Why can’t we?”
Either way, Memphis evened its Western Conference first-round playoff matchup at 1-1. The best-of-seven series resumes Saturday for Game 3 in the Staples Center.
“We had great focus from start to finish,” Griz guard Tony Allen said. “They (the Clippers) came in here and took care of business. We just need to have that same mentality on the road.”
After blowing a 27-point lead in Game 1, the Griz knew they couldn’t afford to go down 0-2 with at least two road games in front of them. Instead of tightening up in the fourth quarter like they did Sunday, the Griz were the aggressors.
They dove on the court, increased defensive pressure on Clippers point man Chris Paul and made clutch baskets.
No one made more of those clutch baskets than Mayo, whose work off the bench last night showcased all of things Mayo is capable of as one of the true sixth-man game-changers in these playoffs (along with James Harden, Louis Williams and Jason Terry).
Mayo scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, took the challenge of trying to lock down Paul on the defensive end and played with the kind of energy and understanding of the moment that Hollins has demanded from him since taking over the team.
Mayo’s a triple threat offensively. He can not only shoot from distance, but has a polished mid-range game and is strong enough and athletic enough to finish at the rim in traffic against bigs. Sure, his shot selection is suspect at times, but what sixth man isn’t known for launching an ill-advised shot here and there?
Toss in the fact that Mayo is a good enough defender to guard point guards, shooting guards and plenty of the league’s starting small forwards, and you have a player capable of impacting games in ways that a select few reserves can. He was all over Paul defensively in the fourth quarter, challenging one of the league’s premier crunch time performers every step of the way.
Even more impressive from Mayo, who is averaging 18.5 points in the series, is that shouldered the blame for the Grizzlies surrendering that big Game 1 lead. He made sure it didn’t happen again and kept the Grizzlies from going to Los Angeles with a chance to steal home court advantage back.