By Teresa M. Walker/The Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph click together, the Memphis Grizzlies are very, very tough to beat.
Gasol and Randolph had 24 points apiece and led a strong rebounding effort by the Grizzlies in a 104-83 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday that evened their first-round playoff series at 2-all.
“Their synergy is pretty amazing you know what I mean,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “Z Bo on the inside and big fella Marc, that’s another guard the way he passes the ball and shoots the ball. You just got to run them. You got to run them. You got to try to get them tired. You can’t just leave them in a rocking chair.”
Gasol also contributed 13 rebounds and Randolph had nine boards as Memphis won its second straight to ensure another stop in Tennessee for Game 6. Mike Conley had 15 points and 13 assists, and Tayshaun Prince scored 15 in his best game of the series.
“Now we got to go out there and try to get a win,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
Paul and Blake Griffin had 19 points apiece for the Clippers, and Griffin also grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double this postseason. Los Angeles’ reserves outscored its counterparts again, 43-16. But DeAndre Jordan was the only other starter besides Paul and Griffin to score for the Clippers, and he had two points. Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler went a combined 0 for 10 from the floor in being shut out.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
“We got to go back, and we got to take care of business in Game 5 at home in front of our fans,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “But there’s no question we’re going to have to get back to playing the way we did the first couple games.”
The team that controls the boards has won each game of the series so far, with Memphis owning a 45-28 advantage in Game 4. That led to a 22-2 difference in second-chance points, boosted by a 13-5 edge on offensive boards.
The Grizzlies used their prowess on the glass to beat the speedy Clippers when it came to fast-break points, 18-6.
Memphis’ biggest advantage is its big men, and Randolph and Gasol each took turns helping the Grizzlies turn this into a best-of-three series. Gasol had six points at halftime, and Tony Allen said Hollins chewed out the 7-foot-1 Spaniard at the break, reminding him to score.
“The second half he was just phenomenal,” Allen said.
Gasol said Hollins didn’t tell him to try to score more because the center noted he had been trying to do just that in the first half.
“We had Zach going in the first half, so we played through Zach,” Gasol said. “It doesn’t matter who scores. At the end of the day, what matters is we win.”
Randolph had 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half as Memphis got off to a quick start, leading 33-25 after the first quarter. Gasol scored 18 in the second half, using an effective jumper to avoid the paint after picking up his third foul with 7:54 left in the third. Randolph got his third 7 seconds later.
It didn’t matter.
The Clippers never led by more than two, the last at 60-58 on a pair of free throws by Paul with 5:58 left in the third. Gasol then hit a 23-footer that beat the shot clock and made a pair of free throws to put Memphis ahead.
Ronny Turiaf’s layup tied it for the sixth and final time. Gasol found Randolph for a layup that put the Grizzlies ahead to stay at 64-62 on the 10th and final lead change with 3:21 left in the third.
Memphis opened the fourth with a 19-5 surge and went up as much as 20, the first on a drive by Quincy Pondexter with 3:45 left at 96-76. The Grizzlies outscored the Clippers 33-16 in the quarter and 55-36 for the half.
Del Negro then subbed in from his bench with 3:02 remaining and had all his starters on the sideline for the final 2 minutes.
“They kind of blew us away in the fourth quarter,” Billups said.
The Grizzlies set the tone from the start and led by as much as 12 in the first quarter. They went cold in the second when Paul scored nine of his 14 first-half points to help the Clippers to a 47-46 lead at halftime.
The Clippers wanted to be aggressive in what’s been a physical series with lots of wrestling, especially between Randolph and Griffin. All the pounding appeared to take a toll in the second quarter as the Clippers had a chance to take their first lead only to have Griffin travel on back-to-back possessions. They couldn’t even connect on a dunk as Prince tipped away a lob to Griffin.
Gasol was the key in the third. He even connected on a 23-foot jumper off an inbounds pass from Prince late in the shot clock. That tied it at 60 with 4:35 left and cranked new energy into the arena.
NOTES: The Grizzlies went 15-3 in the regular season when Gasol posted a double-double. … Memphis improved to 17-1 when shooting at least 50 percent. … The Grizzlies sold out their 12th straight postseason game. … The Grizzlies played without veteran guard Keyon Dooling, who sat out with a strained muscle. … Prince had only 10 points in the first three games combined. … The Clippers shot 13 of 39 in the second half, compared to 20 for 35 for Memphis.