Chris Paul begged coach Vinny Del Negro to put him back into the game for the fourth quarter and not give up despite being down 21 points.
The result was another Clippers comeback — one of the greatest in NBA playoff history.
The Clippers lost Caron Butler to a broken left hand. Del Negro said other players will have to step up.
Nick Young did just that, scoring 19 points off the bench with three 3-pointers in the midst of the Clippers’ 26-1 run. Paul finished with 14 points while playing a team-high 38 minutes despite a groin injury that kept him out of the regular season finale against the Knicks. Griffin had 17 and Butler 12 before leaving the game.
Young said he didn’t even see the score, being on the court down the stretch for a change. He said he looked up late and saw they had a game when he started hitting his shots.
“It’s crazy. It’s a blessing,” Young said. “It shows how hard we fought. How we rallied together as a team, and just made stops down the end.”
The Grizzlies looked devastated. The fans deflated.
“We turned something that we worked so hard for — home-court advantage — to an ugly loss in Game 1,” Mayo said. “We’ve got to come back Game 2 with the attitude [that] we can’t quit.”