LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers played above the rim, not enough to live up to their Lob City moniker but enough to beat Memphis at its own rebounding game.
Chris Paul led seven players in double figures with 23 points, Eric Bledsoe had 15 and the Clippers dominated the boards in a 112-91 victory over the Grizzlies in their Western Conference playoff opener on Saturday.
Chauncey Billups scored 14 points, and Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford had 13 apiece on a night when Blake Griffin was held to 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out with 3:32 left. The high-flying Clippers had just one dunk, but enjoyed a 47-23 advantage on the glass.
“I just decided not to dunk that often,” Paul said, jokingly. “Just shoot floaters. I don’t know what Blake’s problem was.”
Griffin bantered back, saying, “I just wanted to foul.”
“They’re tough inside and in the end our guys made shots. We don’t live for the dunk. It just happens sometimes — a lot of the time,” he said.
Just not this time.
Griffin missed a dunk in the first quarter, when Tony Allen and Ed Davis had Memphis’ only two. DeAndre Jordan’s driving one-handed slam midway through the fourth was the Clippers’ first, and the big man’s first and only basket of the game.
“We were able to get in front of them before they take off,” said Jerryd Bayless, who led the Grizzlies with 19 points.
Marc Gasol had 16 points and two rebounds, and Zach Randolph had 13 points and four boards in the rematch of last year’s first-round series, won by the Clippers in seven games. Randolph finished with five fouls and Bayless was one of four Grizzlies with four fouls.
“That’s not acceptable,” Gasol said about the rebounding difference. “Once we made a stop, they kept running in and getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points. We have to be better than that. The rebounds were the difference.”
Game 2 is Monday night at Staples Center.
“We’ve got to really, really step up and execute better,” Gasol said. “They cannot outhustle us.”
The Grizzlies closed within a point early in the fourth on a 3-pointer by former Clipper Keyon Dooling. Los Angeles answered with a 15-3 run to go up 92-79, equaling the 13-point lead it had in the first half. Eric Bledsoe, who had seven points, opened and closed the spurt with layups as the reserves helped the Clippers outscore the Grizzlies 37-22 in the period.
“Bled is that blur,” Paul said. “It gave us more versatility. They didn’t know who to guard.”
The game was slowed by the referees, who called Memphis for 29 fouls and the Clippers 28.
Memphis owned a 48-46 edge in scoring in the paint, while the Clippers dominated 25-5 in second-chance points.
Griffin and Randolph staged a wrestling match within the game. Griffin said his back, which had spasms in the regular-season finale on Wednesday, felt good.
“I’m ready for however many games it’s going to take,” Griffin said. “If that’s the way he wants to play, let’s do it.”
Randolph said: “It’s not that big of a deal right now. We want to win the next one. If we can’t win the next one, then it’s a big deal.”
The Grizzlies never led, and it didn’t help that Randolph picked up two fouls and Mike Conley Jr. had three in the first half. Besides Griffin, Jordan had four fouls, while Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf had three apiece for the Clippers.
“They had two or three guys going to the glass every time,” Conley said. “They were jumping over us and using their athleticism.”
Paul scored his team’s first seven points in the third, extending the lead to 64-53.
The Clippers led 57-51 at halftime after Barnes tipped in Paul’s miss just before the buzzer. They led by 13 points early in the second before the Grizzlies cut it to two points twice in the final 1:24.
NOTES: The Clippers have won eight straight games, including their final seven of the regular season. … Los Angeles is in the playoffs for the second straight year, the first time that’s happened since 1991-92 and 1992-93. … Memphis led the NBA in points allowed with 89.5 per game in the regular season.