By BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES — Making game-winning shots in the final seconds is one reason the Los Angeles Clippers brought Chris Paul to town. He came up big with a tenth of a second left against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
Paul’s running jumper against Tony Allen’s defense gave the Clippers a 93-91 victory and a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“Tony played as good as defense as you can,” Paul said. “I looked up at the clock and thought I better get a shot off.”
Both teams stayed on the court while the referees reviewed the play. It was declared good, leaving Memphis a tick of the clock to inbound the ball but not enough to get off a final shot.
“It hurts,” said Mike Conley, who scored a playoff-career high 28 points for Memphis. “We wanted to come here and steal one.”
Paul finished with 24 points and nine assists, Blake Griffin added 21 points and eight rebounds and Jamal Crawford scored 15 points on the day he finished second to J.R. Smith of the Knicks for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
“We were on him, the kid made a tough shot,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said of Paul. “He’s a great player and he made a big shot.”
Paul carried the Clippers in the final 3:46, scoring eight straight points, including a basket that gave them a 91-89 lead with 1:20 to play.
“The way Conley was blowing by me at the other end, the least I could do was make a couple shots,” Paul said.
Conley led the Grizzlies’ fourth-quarter charge that came up just short. He had 10 points in the period, while Darrell Arthur scored five straight when Randolph was on the bench to pull Memphis into an 89-all tie.
Conley found Marc Gasol alone in the paint and the big man dunked to tie the game 91-all with 13 seconds left.
Griffin won a hard-fought jump ball, but Paul missed a 3-pointer. He redeemed himself and set off a raucous reaction — with longtime Clippers fan Billy Crystal pumping both arms in the air — when he drove the right baseline against Allen and banked in the game-winner.
“I was supposed to send him back to the left. He got right and that’s what he does in close games,” Allen said. “I definitely let my team down by not sending him back to his weak hand.
“The guy made an amazing shot and all you can do is just deal with the results.”
Gasol added 17 points, Allen had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zach Randolph had 13 points while racking up five fouls for the second straight game.
Game 3 is Thursday in Memphis.
The Clippers’ bench started the fourth quarter and ran off eight straight points for the game’s first double-digit lead, 81-71. Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes had four points each.
Conley answered with five straight points to close the Grizzlies within seven points.
Griffin and Paul joined the second unit, and Griffin scored on a driving dunk for an 85-76 lead. The Clippers returned to their high-flying ways after Lob City managed just one dunk in the series opener.
“My teammates got me open shots and easy looks and that gets me going,” Griffin said. “We kept moving the ball.”
The Clippers led by seven points early in the third before the game turned into a back-and-forth affair. Memphis briefly regained a one-point lead and then tied it 59-all on Arthur’s dunk before Paul scored six of the Clippers’ final 13 points to send them into the fourth leading 75-71.
Neither team led by more than eight points in the first half, with the Clippers ahead 50-44 at halftime. The Grizzlies led most of the first quarter before the Clippers tied it late on a 3-pointer from the right corner by Crawford.
Los Angeles controlled the second quarter, when Crawford got hot. He was 6 of 6 for 13 points before missing a shot.