When the Clippers left the FedExForum late in the season with a road victory against the Grizzlies, the music blared with singing and an air of celebration as the Clippers solidified their hold on home-court advantage in the playoffs.
The Clippers' locker room was much quieter Thursday night after their nine-game winning streak ended with a 94-82 loss in which the Grizzlies employed the game plan Los Angeles used so well in taking the first two games of this first-round series in California. Game 4 is Saturday.
The Grizzlies did everything they couldn't in dropping the opener 112-91 and Game 2 93-91 on a last-second shot.
"The 50-50 balls tonight, they were able to come up with, the hustle plays," Clippers reserve guard Jamal Crawford said. "We had a couple of pretty good stretches, but mainly they were the aggressors."
The Clippers, who had dominated the boards 87-61 in the first two games, saw the roles reversed Thursday night. Memphis outrebounded the Clippers 45-33, including a 17-5 advantage on the offensive glass. That contributed to Memphis outscoring Los Angeles 22-4 in second-chance points.
"They came out very aggressive, you know," said Chris Paul, who was held to eight points on 4-of-11 shooting. "A lot of credit goes to their team. They played hard and they rebounded."
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro added: "The rebounding was obviously the big factor, no question about it.
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 16 points, while Matt Barnes had 12 off the bench. Chauncey Billups scored 11 points, and Caron Butler and Crawford added 10 apiece.
The Grizzlies' rebounding combined with foul trouble stymied the Clippers, and that contributed to Memphis converting 28 of 38 free throws.
"It's a tough line to walk, but you kind of get a feel for it by the first quarter or after a couple of possessions," Griffin said of the foul calls. "For some reason, it has been somewhat difficult to walk that line. There were a lot of double fouls. There were a lot of fouls down low.
"We just have to keep pushing for it, keep playing hard and try to stay out of foul trouble as best we can, but still play a physical game."
The Clippers had beaten the Grizzlies three straight in Memphis, including a Game 7 win in the first round a year ago. They also had won six of the last seven in the series overall coming into this game.
"We just played better," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
Zach Randolph scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds after being limited both on the boards and by foul trouble in Los Angeles to start this series.
"I definitely wanted to come out and be aggressive," Randolph said. "They've been double-teaming, triple-teaming me. So just go fast, you know hit a couple jump shots and open it up. Most definitely, I wanted to come out and be aggressive."
Marc Gasol accepted his trophy as the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year before tipoff, then scored 16 points. Quincy Pondexter and Tony Allen had 13 each. Mike Conley was 1 of 9 but had 10 assists and no turnovers on a night where he was so sick he sipped on soda and didn't talk much.
The Clippers last led 10-8 in the first quarter before the Grizzlies took control with Randolph hitting four of his first five shots and all five free throws for 13 points in the quarter.
They tried to make a run late in the third and into the fourth as they have so often to beat Memphis in this series. They got as close as 74-69 with 8:39 left on a pair of free throws by Barnes.
"He came out aggressive, and that's what they needed," Griffin said of Randolph.
Memphis answered with a 7-2 spurt to push the lead back to double digits on a reverse layup by Pondexter off an assist from Randolph.
The Grizzlies outscored the Clippers 23-20 in the first quarter and 24-19 in the second, taking a 47-39 lead into halftime. They hadn't led by more than six in Los Angeles and were up by seven in the first quarter back on their own court. They pushed that to 12 in the second quarter.
Memphis' lead grew to 14 a couple times in the third, the last at 68-54 on a pair of free throws by Pondexter with 1:22 left.
That's when the Clippers went on a 10-2 run featuring back-to-back 3s by Crawford and then Lamar Odom. Ronny Turiaf dunked to pull the Clippers to 70-64 with 11:04 to go.
Pondexter then scored five points for Memphis as he got the rebound after he missed his second free throw attempt and put it back while being fouled by Barnes.
Pondexter added the free throw, pushing Memphis' lead back up to double digits with 10:16 remaining.
Notes: Randolph wound up part of a double foul situation for a third straight game in this series with Griffin late in the game. ... The Clippers hadn't lost in Memphis since Game 5 last year in the playoffs and had won 24 road games during the regular season. ... The Grizzlies went 28 of 38 at the free throw line compared to 21 of 23 for the Clippers. ... The Clippers' 82 points were two shy of a franchise low in the postseason. ... Pondexter had only five total points in the first two games of the series. ... Paul had averaged 23.5 points in the first two games of the series.