The Clippers’ 101-92 season-opening victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at Staples Center was many things at many times. Mostly, it was wild and frantic and physical and tons of fun for the Clippers.
It also looked like a continuation of the teams’ first-round playoff series last spring, won by the Clippers in seven taut games. At times, it also had the feel of another exhibition game, by turns sloppy and filled with moments of indecision.
When the game got tight and only a few points separated the teams, the Clippers had enough in reserve to hold off the Grizzlies in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060. Backup guard Jamal Crawford scored a team-leading 29 points in his Clippers debut.
Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph, his Grizzlies counterpart at power forward, got tangled up several times in the closing minutes.
Randolph’s takedown of Griffin after a key Chris Paul basket was very much like a professional wrestling move.
“Yeah, the first game after the series we had with them last year, you’d expect that a little bit,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of the rough stuff. “It’s going to be a physical thing. We enjoy that. We have plenty of depth now.”
The Clippers built an early 12-point lead, thanks in large part to the energetic play of Crawford and their second unit. The Grizzlies erased it all by halftime and it was clear this wouldn’t be an easy opening-night stroll for either team.
When the Clippers surged late, they did so forcefully. Paul gave them a 91-86 lead with a jump shot from 14 feet with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining, and the crowd bellowed ever louder. Paul scored only 12 points and Griffin added 11.
Later, Paul tossed a lob pass to DeAndre Jordan for a thunderous dunk that gave the Clippers a 100-91 lead with 1:05 remaining.