Crawford Balls It Up To Lead Clippers Past Grizzlies In Opener
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 29 points in 30 minutes in his first official game with his new team, and the Los Angeles Clippers converted 21 turnovers into 29 points Wednesday night in a 101-92 victory that extended the Memphis Grizzlies’ NBA-record streak of opening-night losses to 12.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who had 12 assists, were among six Clippers to score in double figures. The Clippers are 20-23 in season openers, 12-17 since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984. The Grizzlies are 2-16 on opening night, 0-12 since the franchise shifted from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001.
The Grizzlies got 25 points from Rudy Gay and 20 from Marc Gasol. Zach Randolph, who missed more than two 2 1-2 months last season after tearing the MCL in his right knee and undergoing surgery, had 15 points and 16 rebounds.
The Clippers ended Memphis’ 2011-12 season with a win in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Grizzlies began their 18th season in the NBA under new management, following the announcement Wednesday that the $377 million sale of the club to a group led by California technology entrepreneur Robert J. Pera had been finalized and that the team will stay in Memphis. Pera’s group includes former NBA star Penny Hardaway, as well as actor and singer Justin Timberlake. The league’s board of governors approved the sale last Thursday.
Crawford, who signed with the Clippers as a free agent after averaging 14 points in 60 games last season with Portland, gave the Clippers an 83-77 lead with a short jumper and a 3-pointer less than 2 minutes apart after they entered the fourth quarter trailing by four.
Memphis managed to stay close until Paul set up Crawford for a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:41 remaining for a 96-90 lead, after DeAndre Jordan grabbed a critical offensive rebound of Paul’s missed 3-point attempt.
Less than a minute later, Crawford was awarded a basket on a goaltending call against Mike Conley following a steal by Paul, who then threw alley-oop pass to Jordan for a nine-point lead with 1:05 to play.
Gasol powered the Grizzlies to a 53-49 halftime lead with 14 points. They trailed by as many as 12 with about 5 minutes left in the second quarter, but the 7-foot-1 All-Star scored the final eight points of a 12-0 run that tied the score at 46 with 2:41 left in the half.
The Grizzlies and Clippers both set franchise records for winning percentage during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, finishing 4-5 in the Western Conference standings. Memphis was 41-25 and Los Angeles 40-26.
The Clippers made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2006 and only the fifth time in Los Angeles. They were swept by San Antonio in the conference semifinals after beating the Grizzlies in the first round — a seven-game series that included a stunning 99-98 victory in Game 1 after the Clippers trailed by 24 points in the fourth quarter. They became the first team ever to win Games 1 and 7 on the road in a first-round series.
Reserve forward Matt Barnes, who rejoined the Clippers on Sept. 14 as a free agent after playing the last two seasons with the Lakers, served a one-game suspension from the league.
The suspension stemmed from Barnes’ arrest in July on suspicion of resisting arrest and threatening a public official, which is a felony, after he was approached on foot by a Manhattan Beach officer who was aware that Barnes had an outstanding warrant for a misdemeanor traffic violation. The 10th-year veteran pleaded no contest to the original misdemeanor charge last month at the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
NOTES: After learning of his suspension on Tuesday, Barnes wrote on his Twitter page: “My suspension handed down by the NBA 2day is a (hash)JOKE, but best of luck 2 my team 2maro vs a tough Memphis team & ill be ready for Friday vs Lakers.” … The Grizzlies exercised the fourth-year option on swingman Quincy Pondexter’s rookie contract, which will pay him $2.2 million next season. He was acquired from New Orleans last December for G Greivis Vasquez. … Los Angeles has seven players with at least nine seasons of NBA experience — including Grant Hill, who began his 19th pro campaign in street clothes because of a bone bruise on his right knee. … Conley’s steal on a pass by Jordan broke Shane Battier’s club record of 523 — in 60 fewer games. Last season, Conley was second in the league with 2.19 steals per game, a franchise best.