LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marc Gasol scored 21 points, Tayshaun Prince added 18 and the surging Memphis Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers 96-85 on Wednesday night for their 14th victory in 15 games.
Mike Conley had 17 points and 11 assists, and Zach Randolph scored 13 points as the Grizzlies hung on in the fourth quarter of back-to-back games for their sixth straight victory. Memphis followed up last night’s road win in Portland with a tenacious effort against the Clippers, who have lost three of five.
Memphis (44-19) is percentage points ahead of Los Angeles (45-21) for third place in the Western Conference, although the Clippers are the Pacific Division leaders.
Chris Paul had 24 points and nine assists, and Blake Griffin added 22 points for the Clippers, who won the clubs’ first two meetings this season.
The Grizzlies are excelling during a particularly brutal stretch in their schedule with help from newcomer Prince, the Los Angeles native acquired in the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Toronto. Although they’re late in a five-week stretch in which they never play consecutive games in the same city, with 10 of 14 games on the road, the Grizzlies improved to 15-4 since trading Gay, their leading scorer, on Jan. 30.
Matt Barnes scored 14 points as a fill-in starter for Los Angeles in a physical meeting of two Western Conference contenders whose bruising seven-game, first-round playoff series last spring is still fresh in most players’ minds.
One game after scoring a season-high 129 points, the Clippers struggled offensively, including a 6-for-25 effort on 3-pointers. Although the Clippers seem capable of coasting to the first division title in the long-suffering franchise’s history, the Pacific Division leaders might be in danger of entering another slump in their mostly stellar season.
That’s largely because the Clippers’ impressive depth has been thinned by minor injuries recently. Los Angeles played without starting forward Caron Butler, who’s out with a strained left elbow, and backup point guard Eric Bledsoe, who has a strained calf. Although Jamal Crawford returned from a two-game absence with a sore left ankle, he scored just two points against Memphis on 1-for-10 shooting.
Along with his playmaking prowess, Paul scored his 10,000th career point on a jumper early in the second quarter, getting a standing ovation from the sellout crowd when the milestone was announced. But the All-Star point guard managed just six points in the second half.
Neither team led by more than seven points in the first half, although Memphis disregarded its weary legs and made more than 65 percent of its shots. Memphis jumped to an 11-point lead in the third quarter with a rally led by Gasol, who had 11 points and three steals in the period.
Los Angeles got within three points with 7 minutes to play, but Quincy Pondexter’s 3-pointer kick-started another Memphis rally, and the Grizzlies comfortably held onto the lead late.
NOTES: After a day off, Memphis finishes its four-game trip in Utah and Denver. … CP3 is just the fourth player in NBA history to get 10,000 points and 5,000 assists before his 28th birthday, joining Stephon Marbury, Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas. The Clippers sold out Staples Center for the 83rd straight time. … Unbeaten WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley watched the game in a Clippers jersey. The Palm Springs-area native defends his belt Saturday night in nearby Carson against Ruslan Provodnikov.
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