Kenyon Martin scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Clippers advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals with an 82-72 win on Sunday over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7.
The Clippers won only their third postseason series in 41 years and just their second since relocating to Los Angeles. They also avoided becoming the ninth NBA team to blow a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series. The Clippers move on to play the top-seeded Spurs starting on Tuesday night in San Antonio, Texas.
Chris Paul scored 19 points despite playing with a strained right hip flexor. Nick Young added 13 off the bench as the Clippers finished off the series with their biggest margin of victory.
Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol each had 19 for Memphis. Zach Randolph had a game-high 12 rebounds.
A year ago, the Grizzlies lost a Game 7 at Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs.
The Clippers, who trailed 56-55 after three quarters, took control by opening the fourth with an 11-2 run started by a jumper by Martin. He tipped in a shot for a 66-58 lead with 8 minutes, 41 seconds left. Mo Williams matched the Clippers’ biggest lead to that point at 10 with a 3-pointer pushing it to 71-61 with 7:04 left in a 16-5 spurt to open the quarter.
Los Angeles finished off the win by hitting 9 of 10 free throws in the final 3:26. The Clippers also managed to outrebound the Grizzlies 46-44.
The home-court advantage that did not help the Grizzlies when they blew a 27-point lead in Game 1 did not help again on Sunday as they went cold from the floor. Gasol’s one-handed dunk with 3:09 left was Memphis’ last field goal down the stretch as the Grizzlies hit only 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter and finished the game missing all 13 3-pointers.
This series has been physical and grinding from the opening tip, and neither team backed down in a winner-take-all game.
The Clippers and Grizzlies scrapped and fought for every ball with each possession feeling like a knockdown, drag-out fight. Memphis should have had an advantage against the hobbled Clippers tipping off when they usually eat breakfast on the West Coast. Blake Griffin scored only eight points and looked tentative most of the game with a sprained left knee.
HEAT 95, PACERS 86
In Miami, LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his first game as a three-time MVP, Dwayne Wade finished with 29 despite struggling from the floor, and the Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 95-86 to open their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Chris Bosh scored 13 points for Miami, but left late in the first half with a lower abdominal injury and did not return. The Heat outscored Indiana 25-16 in the fourth, with Wade and James combining for 22 of those points.
David West and Roy Hibbert each scored 17 points and combined for 23 rebounds for the Pacers, who got 10 points each from Darren Collison and George Hill.
Game 2 is in Miami today.
The Heat never led by more than two until 9:20 remained in the game, when a layup by James gave Miami a 76-72 edge. Wade added another basket about 30 seconds later, and the margin eventually reached eight when James made two free throws with 7:52 left.
Back came Indiana, which got within 86-85 on a 3-pointer by Hill with 4:51 left after Miami went cold again, but one big flurry — capped by a dunk from James in transition and Wade coming from behind to block a shot by Paul George at the rim about a half-minute later — gave the Heat some breathing room.