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By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor - Archive - Email
The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Hooray for Hollywood while Memphis and the Mile High City are in mourning.

Let's take a look at the two NBA playoff series that went the distance and what's in store for the winners:

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS-MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

The fourth-quarter blues struck the Grizzlies again on Sunday in the seventh and deciding game of their Western Conference first-round matchup and it sent them packing for the summer.

The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies, 27-16, in the final quarter to win only their third playoff series in the 41-year history of the franchise.

Kenyon Martin, a late-season pickup by the Clips, scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth and chipped in with 10 rebounds to help Los Angeles close out the game and the series.

"That's why it's seven games," Martin said. "If you don't do it before, you get another chance. So they did what they had to do, they came and stole home court back on our floor. ... We had a chance to close it out. We knew we let it go, an opportunity (getting) away."

The Grizzlies hit just 4-of-18 field-goal attempts in the final quarter and didn't overcome awful shooting performances by O.J. Mayo (1-for-11), Mike Conley (2-for-13) and Zach Randolph (3-for-12), who combined to shoot 6-for-36 (16.6 percent).

The Game 7 defeat marked the third time in the series the Grizzlies lost after leading through three quarters. They outscored the Clippers, 640-635, in the series, but Los Angeles won the fourth quarters and overtimes, 183-146.

As for the Clippers, the task will be even more daunting in the second round as they take on the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Their best player, Chris Paul, will have to face a fellow All-Star who also got strong MVP consideration, Tony Parker.

Parker got the better of Paul in their two head-to-head meetings in the regular season, which were both Spurs' wins.

In only the second game for both teams in late December, San Antonio routed the visiting Clippers, 115-90.

Parker was 6-for-9 from the floor and had 14 points, nine assists and one turnover, while Paul shot just 3-for-10 and had 10 points, nine assists and two turnovers.

In the second meeting in mid-February, the Spurs won in overtime in Los Angeles, 103-100.

Parker led the way with 30 points on 11-for-22 field-goal shooting, along with 10 assists and just two turnovers. Paul hit 6 of 19 shots and had 21 points, six assists and two turnovers.

The Clippers' point guard had a huge game (36 points, 11 assists, one turnover) against the Spurs on March 9 when they won in San Antonio, 120-108, but it came with Parker sidelined with a sore thigh.

The Clippers have to get a lot of credit for both winning this opening-round playoff series and playing the kind of defense a team needs in the postseason, but the performance they had against the Grizzlies won't be good enough to get it done against the Spurs.

DENVER NUGGETS-LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Even with terrific games from Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake, the Lakers barely survived their Game 7 with the Nuggets in the Western Conference first round.

The Lakers' twin towers were heavily criticized for their lackluster play in the Game 5 and 6 losses, and rightfully so, but they delivered big-time in the win-or-go-home seventh game.

Gasol did it all, with 21 points, 17 rebounds, including six offensive rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Bynum also helped control the paint and the boards with 18 rebounds, including nine off the offensive glass, and six blocked shots.

"We were aggressive," Gasol said. "We attacked the paint better. We pounded the boards as hard as we could, every single time. ... Our backs against the wall also had something to do with it."

The game marked the return of Metta World Peace from his seven-game suspension, and his lockdown defense on Andre Miller and Danilo Gallinari, who combined to shoot 2-for-19, played a huge role in the win.

"He made plays tonight that won't show up in the stat sheet that were absolutely amazing for us defensively," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "Just his presence alone helped us out, and that's what we missed the first six games. ... He was monstrous for us tonight."

Backup point guard Steve Blake was also a monster for the Lakers. He shot 7- for-11 from the floor, including 5-for-6 on 3-pointers while scoring a playoff career-high 19 points.

It's now onto Oklahoma City for the Lakers and a second-round meeting with the Thunder. Unlike the opening-round series with the Nuggets, the Lakers will not have home-court advantage, and that's not good news for a team that was 15-18 on the road during the regular season.

There will be a lot less margin for error against the Thunder and the Lakers will not be able to withstand some of the bad performances they got from Gasol and Bynum against Denver in this series.

Even if the Lakers get their usual performance from their two big men and Kobe Bryant, they still will probably need solid efforts from Ramon Sessions and Blake to advance past the Thunder.

Against Denver, Sessions wasn't aggressive and didn't look confident and really faded as the series progressed. Over the final three games, he shot 9-for-29, rarely attacked the basket and shied away from open jumpers. Play like that makes Bynum and Gasol less effective on the inside.

As for Blake, they need him to hit open jumpers, something he hasn't done on a consistent basis all season as he shot just 37.7 percent from the floor and 33.5 percent on 3-pointers.

Copyright 2012

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