MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- There was a moment late in the first quarter when Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin outran everyone and threw down an uncontested dunk.
Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger's cheeks filled with air before he exhaled as if this night would be a long one.
But the Grizzlies' defense eventually caught up to the Clippers' otherwise high-octane offense and withstood the bad end of an enormous free throw disparity to escape with a 102-96 victory Friday night in FedExForum.
Emotions and hot tempers filled the arena on and off the court, mostly because of the Clippers' 43-15 advantage in free throws.
The Griz compensated by simply working over the Clippers inside.
Zach Randolph made several clutch baskets after the Clippers cut the Grizzlies' 12-point lead to make it a one-possession game with 2:31 to go. Randolph's putback basket put Memphis ahead 100-96 with 49.6 seconds left. The basket came after Marc Gasol's dunk off a strong drive to the basket on a pick-and-roll.
The Griz outscored the Clippers 60-34 in the paint.
The Clippers came in averaging 106.9 points per game.
Memphis had an 84-72 lead with nine minutes left to play.
Both teams exchanged leads after the intermission before the Griz wrestled away momentum and took a 73-68 advantage into the fourth period.
Memphis led 53-50 at halftime after falling behind by eight points in the first half.
Griffin had his way early. He tossed in 15 points and grabbed five rebounds in the opening quarter.
Memphis put together a surge that coincided with Tony Allen's return to action after a 21-game layoff due to a left wrist sprain.
Reserve forward James Johnson also gave the Griz a major spark off the bench.
The Griz were trailing 31-23 when they scored seven straight points to make the game close. Allen intercepted a pass and fed Johnson for a fast-break dunk during the run, which Mike Conley finished with a 3-pointer.
Johnson gave the Griz a 36-35 lead after another slam midway through the second period. Johnson made FedExForum his playground before halftime. He stunned the Clippers and electrified the home crowd with a contest-worthy dunk with 2:22 left.
Clippers forward Matt Barnes had his back to Johnson in the lane so Johnson threw the ball off the backboard to himself and finished the circus play with a tomahawk slam. Memphis had a 48-43 lead after the play.
The Grizzlies' largest lead was six points in the second period. While the Clippers didn't take full advantage of their 23-3 edge in free throws, the disparity helped keep the game close.
Chris Paul was awarded three foul shots after Conley was called for hacking him on a straightaway shot from beyond the arc with 0.7 left before the intermission. Paul made all three free throws, but the Clippers missed 10 shots from the line in the first half.
Memphis had Los Angeles' inept foul shooting, the game's pace and a suddenly ineffective Griffin working in its favor by the half.
Griffin scored just one point and didn't grab a rebound after the opening quarter. Johnson, meanwhile, had 13 points in the first half.
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