LOS ANGELES — Defense is the calling card of the Memphis Grizzlies. They dialed it up again to hang on to a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night.
Point guard Mike Conley scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, and he recorded a game-clinching steal in the final seconds as the Grizzlies edged the Clippers 90-87 at Staples Center.
“Whenever you can beat the Clippers, it’s always a satisfying win,” said Conley, who also had seven assists and hit five of 10 shots from the floor. “They’re a tough team, and we know them better than anybody in the league over the last few years. To come in here on the second end of a back-to-back, this means a lot for us to come here and do that when they were playing so well.”
Forward Jeff Green chipped in 16 points and center Marc Gasol had 14 for the Grizzlies, who defeated the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night. Memphis (41-14) won for the 12th time in 14 games, beating the Clippers for the third consecutive meeting dating back to last season.
“At the end of the game, we made enough plays defensively to stay on top,” Gasol said.
Point guard Chris Paul scored 30 points and handed out 10 assists to lead the Clippers, but his turnover near the end cost his team. Guard Jamal Crawford finished with 15 points, but no other Los Angeles player managed double figures. Center DeAndre Jordan added nine points and 17 rebounds for Los Angeles, which had a five-game winning streak snapped.
Memphis kept the Clippers scoreless from the field for almost five minutes in the fourth quarter. Still, Los Angeles stayed within striking distance.
Trailing 88-80 after a 3-point basket by Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee, the Clippers cut the deficit to 88-87 on a jumper in the lane by Paul with 1:10 left.
Los Angeles (37-20) had an opportunity to take the lead on two occasions, but Conley stripped Paul of the ball with 1.9 seconds left. Conley was immediately fouled, and he hit both free throws to cap the scoring.
Paul, who had possession near the top of the key, attempted to drive past Lee on the game-deciding possession, but he lost his balance as Conley swiped the ball.
“I give credit to Courtney. He really did a fantastic job on (Paul) at the end of the game,” Conley said. “He forced him to the side, and I was able to cut him off, and I took a gamble and went after the ball and was able to come up with it.”
Paul said, “This is what we talk about day in and day out, how a game comes down to a few plays and execution. I did not execute the last play.”
The loss ended the Clippers’ run of 12 consecutive wins over Western Conference foes at Staples.
“I did not like our movement offensively,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “This was more of a dribble game for us. That is exactly the way Memphis wanted us to play.”
Paul dictated in the first half, scoring 19 points and helping Los Angeles take a 44-38 lead at the break. The Clippers converted 48.7 percent of their first-half shots compared to 36.2 percent for Memphis. Overall, Los Angeles outshot the Grizzlies 44.3 percent to 40.7 percent.
In the first half, Paul became the fourth player to reach 12,500 points and 6,500 assists in fewer than 675 career games. The other three are Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas.
Los Angeles fell to 4-2 without injured All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who is recuperating from right elbow surgery.
NOTES: Grizzlies F Jeff Green’s versatility is a huge addition to his new club. “We post him up when we can, try to get him out in transition to get some easy baskets, let him use the basketball in pick-and-rolls and be a playmaker and use Mike Conley at times because Mike can be a good spot-up shooter,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. The Grizzlies are 15-3 since they obtained Green in a Jan. 12 deal with the Boston Celtics. … The Grizzlies captured a 107-91 win over the Clippers behind C Marc Gasol’s 30 points and 12 rebounds in their previous meeting Nov. 23. … Memphis caps its four-game road trip on Wednesday at the Sacramento Kings. … The Clippers tip off a four-game road trip at the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. They will visit Memphis on Friday.
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