Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles the ball while defended by Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies the in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 29, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo Courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America/ AFP
LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) – The Los Angeles Clippers stormed back from a 27-point second-half deficit Sunday, April 29 (Monday, April 30 in Manila) to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98 in the first game of their NBA Western Conference first-round series.
Chris Paul’s two free throws with 23.7 seconds left gave the Clippers the one-point lead, and Rudy Gay missed a jump shot as time expired that would have salvaged the victory for Memphis.
The Clippers’ remarkable rally, after they trailed by 24 points with less than nine minutes remaining, followed emphatic victories for the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and perennial contenders the Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round openers.
All-Star center Andrew Bynum delivered a dazzling defensive display in the Lakers’ 103-88 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
He matched the NBA playoff record for blocked shots in a game with 10, part of a “triple-double” that included 13 rebounds and 10 points.
In San Antonio, Tony Parker scored 28 points and Tim Duncan added 17 to lead the Spurs over the Utah Jazz 106-91.
Bynum had the Lakers’ first post-season “triple-double” since Magic Johnson managed the feat in the 1991 NBA Finals.
Although he was pleased to follow in the footsteps of one of the league’s greats, Bynum said the victory was the most important thing.
“We’re out here now trying to win games,” he said. “If I’m aggressive defensively, I think we have the best chance to do it.”
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant scored 31 points and Spanish forward/center Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
But Lakers coach Mike Brown said he had no doubt it was Bynum who was the key.
“To me the difference in the game is Andrew Bynum,” Brown said. “He can control the game without taking a shot. He was phenomenal.”
The Spurs, who closed the regular season on a 10-game win streak, will host Utah on Wednesday in game two of the best-of-seven series.
Duncan grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds while Parker contributed a game-high eight assists and Stephen Jackson added 14 points for San Antonio, which had not won a playoff series opener in six tries over the past four years.
Last season as the top seeds in the West, the Spurs dropped their opening game at home to Memphis and were eliminated in six games in the first round.
“I think everybody knows what happened last year and everybody is very motivated this year,” Parker said of the lingering sting of last season’s round-one loss to Memphis.
“I was a little bit disappointed in my performance last year. I had a lot better season this year and made sure I played with a different attitude. I made sure I set the table in game one by being aggressive and build on that.”
Parker scored 12 points in the second quarter to spark the Spurs to a 54-47 half-time lead and San Antonio stretched the margin through the second half, the largest edge being 104-87 with two minutes remaining.
The only downside for the Spurs was the left wrist sprain suffered by Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter, who had scored four points in just over seven minutes. – Agence France-Presse