LOS ANGELES -- This was a game the Los Angeles Clippers felt they had to win. It wasn't a "must-win" game by definition, but after recent losses to the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, the Clippers needed a win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Not only did they need to defeat a Western Conference playoff team they might face down the line, but they needed the victory to reclaim the No. 3 seed in the West, which had been theirs for much of the season.
None of that happened Wednesday night at Staples Center as the Grizzlies defeated the Clippers 96-85, taking sole possession of the Western Conference's No. 3 seed and winning 14 of their last 15 games.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
CP3's strong start
Chris Paul is constantly being told to be more aggressive early in games by players and coaches. They feel that Paul's aggressiveness helps set the tone for the game and opens up opportunities for others as the game progresses. Paul, however, will usually let the game come to him. If there are opportunities to be aggressive, he will be. If not, well, he won't.
"I think he kind of picks his spots," Clippers guard Chauncey Billups said. "I also talk to him a lot about trying to be aggressive early because I just think that it opens up everything he's looking for. It opens it up, maybe not at the start of the game, but once the team adjusts to you, be aggressive, all of those plays he wants to make will open up."
Against the Grizzlies, Paul was aggressive early, scoring 18 points and dishing six assists in the first half. He had 22 points and eight assists through three quarters. Paul finished with 24 points and nine assists, but it still wasn't enough.
The artists formerly known as
It wasn't that long ago that "A Tribe Called Bench" was the most talked about bench in the NBA and closing games with the ease of Mariano Rivera. That was, of course, before the Clippers were hit by the injury bug, forcing them to shuffle things around a bit. On Wednesday, the Clippers' bench was missing Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes, who started in place of sidelined Caron Butler. Despite the return of Jamal Crawford, who came back after sitting out two games, the Clippers' bench was still a non-factor for much of the game. Crawford hit only one of 10 shots, finishing with just two points. In fact, Lamar Odom, with seven points, was the only reserve with more than two.
The Clippers have talked for weeks about shoring up their defense and spent the past three practices emphasizing their 3-point defense. Neither was particularly good against the Grizzlies. Memphis shot 54.4 percent from the field and had five players score in double digits. They also shot 50 percent from beyond the arc, which had become a regular occurrence in the Clippers' losses this season. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for 45 points as the Grizzlies outscored the Clippers 46-30 in points in the paint.