After Monday's buzzer-beating, game-winning shot in Game 2, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was hailed as perhaps the best closer in the NBA. Three days later in Memphis, Paul was never put in a position to close Game 3 and he had as much to do with that as anyone on the team.
Paul finished with eight points and five turnovers to go along with four assists and six rebounds. He was 4-of-11 from the field, missing both of his attempts from beyond the arc, including an air ball in the fourth quarter before he was finally taken out with the game out of reach as the Memphis Grizzlies won 94-82.
There was plenty of blame to go around for the Clippers' first loss in their past 10 games, and their first loss in Memphis in nearly a year, but Paul's performance would have to be near the top of the list. He is the engine that makes this team go and it was sputtering from the opening tip Thursday. Paul didn't score a single point in the fourth quarter, missing his only attempt and committing two turnovers, as the Grizzlies pushed their lead to 16 points and forced Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro to pull his starters and wave the white flag.
How it happened: Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph came out possessed from the start. He scored 18 points in the first half, which was as much as Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf did up until that point. The tandem of Randolph and Marc Gasol (43 points) ended up scoring almost as much as the Clippers' starting lineup (47 points) when the game was over.
What it means: Take a quick look at the box score and it's not hard to see how the Grizzlies were able to beat the Clippers. They outrebounded the Clippers (45-33), had more points in the paint (40-26), had more second-chance points (22-4), shot more free throws (38-23) and had fewer turnovers (18-10).
Hits: The lone bright spot for the Clippers was they defended the Grizzlies well for the most part. They held Memphis to 38.8 percent shooting from the field, 25 percent from beyond the arc and the Grizzlies hit only 73.7 percent from the free throw line. In fact, the Clippers shot the same percentage from the field and were better from 3-point range (39.1 percent) and on free throws (73.7 percent) than Memphis but were not able to overcome the other discrepancies in the box score.
Misses: One of the consistent forces for the Clippers in this series (and whenever the Clippers play the Grizzlies) has been Bledsoe, but on Thursday night he was a non-factor. Bledsoe was 0-for-4 from the field in a little less than 15 minutes and looked completely lost on the court before he was finally taken out.
Stat of the game: There are so many to choose from in favor of the Grizzlies, but Memphis' rebounding advantage (45-33) and points-in-the-paint advantage (40-26) is key considering how the Clippers have dominated the paint and the boards so far in this series.
Up next: The Clippers never expected to sweep the Grizzlies. In fact, before the Clippers left Los Angeles for Memphis after Wednesday's practice, they said their goal was to steal one game in Memphis and put themselves in a position to close out the series at home in Game 5. The Clippers will get a chance to "steal" that game on Saturday in Game 4.