With 9 minutes and 12 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the Grizzlies-Clippers series, O.J. Mayo hit a 3 to put the Grizzlies up by 24 points in front of their hometown crowd.
The Grizzlies were doing everything perfectly: Mayo and Mike Conley were on fire from beyond the arc, the Clippers had no answers for Marc Gasol in the post, and Memphis’ tough-as-nails defense was shutting down the Clippers’ simplistic pick-and-roll attack with ease. To make matters even worse for the Clippers, Caron Butler was forced to leave the game with a fractured left hand. Game 1 appeared to be, for all intents and purposes, in the books.
Then the run happened.
Memphis’ offense stalled as they started settling for outside jumpers instead of looking inside, and their only field goal in the last 9:12 of the game was a Rudy Gay jumper with 28 seconds remaining. Meanwhile, the Clippers finally got hot, and cut the Memphis lead from 12 to 3 when Nick Young made 3 consecutive 3-pointers in the span of a single minute. Then Blake Griffin made two free throws, Reggie Evans got a go-ahead layup to fall, and Paul answered a go-ahead jumper on Memphis’ side by drawing a foul and draining both free throws. Gay missed a jumper on the last possession of the game, and the Grizzlies found themselves on the wrong side of one of the worst collapses in playoff history.
This is a crushing defeat for the Grizzlies, who finished the regular season with a 26-7 home record. Now they’ve lost their home-court advantage, and after this loss, game 2 is almost a must-win situation for Memphis. Los Angeles, meanwhile, should be worried about how futile their offense was against the Grizzlies for the first 39 minutes of the game, but should take solace in the fact that the Grizzlies can’t count on shooting 68.8% from beyond the arc every night, or any other night in this series. After 9 crazy minutes of basketball, the Clippers managed to snag victory from the jaws of defeat, and they are now in total command of this first-round series. We’ll see if they can carry that momentum over to Game 2.