Clippers rally from 27-point deficit

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)

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.

Hawks vs. Celtics

GRIZZLIES VS. CLIPPERS

The result was another Clippers comeback — one of the greatest in NBA playoff history.

Paul hit a pair of free throws with 23.7 seconds left, and the Clippers rallied from a deficit that had been as much as 27 to stun the Memphis Grizzlies 99-98 Sunday night in the opening game of their Western Conference series.

The key, Paul said, is to keep believing.

”Unfortunately, that’s how we play,” he said. ”We get killed in the first three quarters and in the fourth quarter we like to try to stand up for ourselves, and we found a way to win tonight.”

The Clippers tied the NBA playoff record for largest deficit overcome at the end of three quarters, when they trailed by 21.

”I don’t think I’ve been part of a game like that ever,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. ”It was unbelievable.”

Rudy Gay missed a 15-footer with 0.9 seconds left after the Grizzlies squandered a lead they held for the first 47 minutes, with a 24-point cushion disappearing in about nine minutes.

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”Obviously, we gave it away, and everybody’s kind of down,” Gay said. ”We’re still into it. It’s a long series, and we’re ready to fight. That’s all this means. We’ve got to fight hard.”

The Clippers lost Caron Butler to a broken left hand, and he said he thinks he caught his hand in Gay’s jersey on a screen. 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.”

Gay finished with 19 for Memphis. Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo had 17, and Marc Gasol scored 14.

Game 2 is Wednesday night.

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The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 35-13 in the fourth quarter, the most points in the final period by a Memphis opponent this season. Los Angeles also hit 13 of 17 from the floor, including 5 of 6 beyond the arc after hitting only one the first three quarters.

The Grizzlies looked ready to roll as they ran out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter and were up by 27 twice in the third, the last on a pair of free throws by Mayo with 1:34 left.

The Clippers finally got going in the fourth, as the Grizzlies looked like they shut it down way too soon. They had five turnovers in the fourth. Even though the Clippers had seven themselves, the Grizzlies looked lost as they just lost the ball going into the lane or put up shots that had no chance of going in.

”We just got careless,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. ”We just lost a little bit of our discipline from a defensive perspective. But offensively, we just started walking it up and trying to throw it into the post instead of running it in. We ran earlier. We attacked. We were in transition earlier. We just stopped doing that and got conservative and it cost us.”

Reggie Evans gave the Clippers their first lead at 97-96 when he scored inside with 58 seconds left.

Gay answered with 28 seconds to go with a 10-foot jumper on the right baseline over Paul, ending a drought where the Grizzlies went nearly 9 minutes without a field goal.

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Tony Allen fouled Paul, sending him to the line for the clinching free throws.

Boston came back from 21 down after three quarters against New Jersey on May 25, 2002.

The Grizzlies had won six straight overall and the last 11 on their home floor to grab the No. 4 seed and start this series at home. Mayo said there would be no sleep until they fix what went wrong.

”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 we can’t quit.”

The Grizzlies seemed to be clicking all across the board. They even hit 11 of 16 from 3-point range after ranking 25th in the NBA this season beyond the arc at 34.5 percent. Against the Clippers, they opened by hitting their four. So did Conley, and he hit three straight, the last with 7:19 left in the third, putting the Grizzlies up 69-48.

Memphis fans couldn’t have been more ready for this chance to start the postseason at home with a sellout crowd on hand. With a good luck charm in a St. Jude patient singing the national anthem, fans had their free T-shirts on and waving the free towels before tipoff.

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The Grizzlies were ready too. They opened the game hitting their first five shots and seven of the first 10 in jumping out 15-6, forcing Del Negro to take a timeout. They quickly led by as much as 20 and had a 34-16 lead by the end of the first quarter, tying the most points scored this season in that period.

This is the Clippers’ first trip to the postseason since 2006. Paul has plenty of playoff experience with 23 games while in New Orleans, but this was the postseason debut for three starters — Griffin, Randy Foye and DeAndre Jordan — along with four of their teammates.

Paul looked a little rusty in the first half with only one point and three assists, all in the first quarter. He sat out the Clippers’ final game of the season with a strained groin, and Los Angeles lost that game to the Knicks along with the chance to start this series at home. Paul picked up his third foul with 6.5 seconds left in the first half.

The Clippers made a run in the second quarter and got within 50-39. But after Gay missed a pull-up jumper, the Clippers had a shot clock violation. The Grizzlies scored the final eight points, the last on a dunk by Gasol just before the buzzer for a 58-39 halftime lead.

NOTES: The Grizzlies scored 34 in a quarter three other times. … The Grizzlies went 17-1 when leading after the first and 16-1 when leading at halftime. The lone loss came in double overtime March 13 to the Lakers. … The Grizzlies made nine 3-pointers twice during the season, the last on April 3 against Golden State.

Kobe, Lakers handle Nuggets in Game 1

LOS ANGELES (AP)

A day before Andrew Bynum produced one of the most eye-popping defensive performances in NBA playoff history, he spoke up to his Lakers teammates about the importance of getting off to a good start in their championship quest.

Heat vs. Knicks

LAKERS VS. NUGGETS

With an NBA record-tying 10 blocked shots, the 7-foot All-Star center put the Lakers on the good foot — and the Denver Nuggets on their heels.

Kobe Bryant scored 31 points, Bynum posted the Lakers’ first playoff triple-double in 21 years, and Los Angeles thoroughly controlled the tempo in a playoff-opening 103-88 victory Sunday.

Despite a few well-chronicled fluctuations in his motivation and discipline this year, the seventh-year pro had perfect focus in Game 1, capping his utter dominance in the paint with his record-tying block of Timofey Mozgov with 3:02 to play. Bynum also had 10 points and 13 rebounds before checking out to an ovation.

”It’s the only way really possible for me to get a triple-double — through blocked shots,” Bynum said of his first career triple-double. ”If I play good D, we’ll win games. I think I’m just going to be as aggressively as I can defensively to contest their shots. … You’ve got to win Game 1. Statistics are against the teams that lose Game 1, especially on the home court.”

Game 2 is Tuesday night.

Just how dominant were Bynum and his tall teammates against the NBA’s highest-scoring team? Bynum blocked 11 percent of the Nuggets’ 90 shots, and with 15 total blocks, Lakers swatted one of every six Denver shots, separating the Nuggets from any hope of a late rally.

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2012 NBA PLAYOFFS

”His timing was impeccable today,” Bryant said of Bynum. ”He really understood the rhythm of their offensive players. He was just there at the exact moment, either to change or block the shot.”

While Bynum had the Lakers’ first playoff triple-double since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA finals, fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the playoff-tested Lakers, who never trailed while forcing Denver to play Los Angeles’ preferred half-court style.

Bynum blocked eight shots in the first three quarters before surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise-record nine blocks in the fourth. He eventually equaled the NBA record set by Utah’s Mark Eaton on April 26, 1985, and matched by Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon on April 29, 1990.

”We’ve got to find a way to score before he gets in the paint, because he’s impressive,” said Danilo Gallinari, who led Denver with 19 points.

For coach Mike Brown, who has mostly enjoyed his first year riding the roller coaster of Bynum’s emotions and motivation, the game showed why these Lakers could go deep into June.

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”He can control a game without shooting a single shot,” Brown said. ”He has 10 blocks, but I’d be curious to know how many (shots) he changed. He changed a gazillion shots in the paint, and that’s what Denver is very good at. He was phenomenal tonight, and if he continues to play like he did, being the type of monster he was tonight patrolling that paint, we’ll be playing a long time.”

But Denver coach George Karl got a jump start on lobbying the officials for help against Bynum in Game 2.

”(Bynum) was playing a nice illegal defense,” Karl said. ”He was zoned up good. I think we got one illegal defense (call against Los Angeles). I saw about 30 of them. … The shot-blocker probably beat us.”

The sixth-seeded Nuggets won eight of 10 to reach the postseason, but most of their fears about this playoff matchup were realized. Andre Miller had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while helping out Ty Lawson, Denver’s leading scorer, who managed just seven points while failing to make a shot in the first three quarters for the NBA’s second-youngest playoff roster.

Ramon Sessions had 14 points and five assists in his first career playoff game for the third-seeded Lakers, who lost last year’s postseason opener to New Orleans.

Devin Ebanks even scored 12 points in the first half while starting his first career playoff game in place of suspended Metta World Peace. The Lakers didn’t miss their defensive stopper while forcing most of Denver’s key contributors into poor games.

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PICTURE PERFECT

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”I don’t think we were intimidated,” Gallinari said. ”They played their game plan better than we played our game plan. … This first game, we were overthinking too much. One of the best things we do is just be aggressive and don’t think too much.”

Bryant scored 23 points in the second half to open the 15th playoff campaign of his 16-year career. The third-leading scorer in NBA playoff history hadn’t played in a week, sitting out the Lakers’ last game alongside Gasol and Bynum to keep his high-mileage legs fresh.

Sessions and Ebanks both made their playoff debuts, while Brown coached the Lakers in their first playoff game at Staples Center, which opened in 1999, without Phil Jackson commanding their bench from his oversized chair.

NOTES: Jordan Hill had another surprisingly strong game off the bench, contributing 10 points and 10 rebounds to the Lakers. … Bynum blocked seven shots on June 6, 2010, in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against Boston in his previous playoff high. … The Lakers handed out white T-shirts reading ”One at a Time,” but in a Staples Center tradition, most of the crowd declined to wear them. … Fans in attendance included Megan Fox, David Beckham, Meagan Good and Brian Austin Green.

Nike designer mocks Rose over injury?

The man behind LeBron James’ Nike sneakers sparked outrage after mocking Adidas rival Derrick Rose following his season-ending ACL tear Saturday.

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

WHAT A PAIN

See how Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending knee injury in the playoff opener vs. the 76ers.

Senior footwear designer Jason Petrie tweeted Rose “chose poorly” and “#shouldasignedwithNIKE” after the superstar Bulls guard suffered the injury in his team’s playoffs opener against the Philadelphia 76ers in Chicago.

Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, signed a career deal with Adidas in February worth a minimum of $185 million over 13 years.

Petrie, who designed the sneakers worn and endorsed by Heat star James, made a comparison between his man and Rose, who he referred to by his family nickname, “Pooh.”

“You got one guy only getting stronger, and one guy breaking down before our very eyes. You chose poorly Pooh… #shouldasignedwithNIKE #GWS [get well soon],” he tweeted.

Petrie received an angry response for his comments, which followers branded in “bad taste” and “classless.”

Another tweeted, “Damn, you’re an embarrassment to Nike tweeting that.”

Bulls vs. Sixers

BULLS VS. SIXERS

The designer attempted to draw back from the criticism, tweeting, “Y’all take sh#t too serious! Never want to see anyone get hurt- I hope DRose comes back stronger than ever, he’s too good…”

But as more and more people expressed their disgust at his original ill-judged comment, he went back on the offensive, tweeting, “Just to set the record straight- if you ain’t with me you against me, and if that’s the case I don’t give a F about you!”

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Bulls’ Rose tears ACL, done for playoffs

CHICAGO (AP)

Derrick Rose crumbled to the floor, clutching his left knee. His season is over and the Bulls’ title hopes just might be finished, too.

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2012 NBA PLAYOFFS

Rose will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee late in Chicago’s 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Saturday’s playoff opener, casting big cloud over a team eyeing a championship run.

He scored 23 points and was playing more like the league’s reigning MVP after missing 27 games because of injuries during the regular season, but his injury-plagued season came to an end as the Bulls were wrapping up an impressive victory.

Rose crumbled to the ground after he drove the lane with about 1:20 left and the Bulls leading by 12. He was going for a layup when he came to a jump-stop and seemed to change his mind as the 76ers’ Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen rotated over, passing off to a teammate before an awkward landing.

Team medical personnel immediately rushed out and tended to Rose for several minutes as he was writhing in pain near the baseline before helping him to the locker room. Rose was taken to the hospital, and the results of the MRI were not good.

Whether Rose should have been in the game at that point figures to be debated for a long time around Chicago. He checked back in with just under eight minutes left and the lead got as high as 20 shortly after that before the Sixers chipped away at it.

With Philadelphia making a push, coach Tom Thibodeau decided to stay with Rose.

”I don’t work backward like you guys do,” Thibodeau said. ”The score was going the other way.”

Veteran guard Richard Hamilton defended the decision, saying, ”Philly was making a run. In playoff basketball, you never want to give a team confidence. … When you have a team down, you have to try to keep them down. They made a little run so we needed guys that could put the ball in the basket.”

Sixers coach Doug Collins also had Thibodeau’s back.

”He knows what he’s doing coaching his team,” Collins said. ”Thibs is my buddy. I have the ultimate respect for him. From his standpoint he wanted to finish that game for what he did. It’s awful that Derrick got hurt.”

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Losing Rose is obviously a huge blow for a team that made the conference finals last year and captured the top overall seed for the second straight season.

He was finally performing more like the reigning MVP after being out of the lineup so often during the regular season with various injuries and mostly struggling the few times he did play late in the regular season.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he found out during the Miami-New York matchup later Saturday that Rose’s season, and his hopes of playing in the Olympics, was over.

”I said a prayer for him and his family,” Wade said. ”You never want to see anyone get injured, especially a player of his caliber. Very unfortunate. You hope he does his best to rehab and gets back to being the D-Rose that everyone loves.”

Rose found his touch after a slow start in this game and also contributed nine rebounds and nine assists. Hamilton added 19 points, Luol Deng scored 17 and Joakim Noah (12 points, 13 rebounds) had a double-double for Chicago.

Elton Brand led Philadelphia with 19 points. Jrue Holiday scored 16, and Thaddeus Young had 13 points. Chicago product Evan Turner scored 12 and was booed mercilessly after acknowledging he thought the Miami Heat would be a tougher first-round matchup.

Well, he might be right now that Rose is out. Then again, the Bulls grabbed home-court advantage throughout the playoffs despite a run of injuries that would have ruined most teams.

They were 18-9 without Rose during the regular season and had their projected starting five available for just 15 games. Hamilton was out much of the year because of injuries, and Deng has been dealing with a torn ligament in his left wrist.

Before Rose went down on Saturday, the Bulls simply overwhelmed the Sixers and looked like a team gearing up for another big run after losing to Miami in the conference finals last season.

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”Your heart goes out to him,” Kyle Korver said. ”It’s been a hard year. With all the work that he puts in and the kind of person he is, to see this happen stinks. It’s a sad win.”

Young felt for Rose, too.

”It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. ”You don’t want to see him go down like that in the first game of the first round of the playoffs.”

Rose hit just 1 of 7 shots in the first quarter but went on a tear late in the second as the Bulls took a 53-42 lead to the locker room. He then scored eight in the third and hit two 3-pointers to help Chicago stay in control, even though things did get a little heated.

That happened when Noah got fouled by Turner trying to put back Deng’s miss with 4:36 left in the quarter. Hamilton started jawing with Turner. Rose and Brand got involved, too.

Fans, meanwhile, started chanting ”MVP! MVP!” in a nod to the rivalry between Rose and Turner that dates to their high school days. When the dust cleared, Hamilton, Brand and Rose all got technicals, and Noah hit 1 of 2 foul shots to make it 69-55.

Hamilton added two more free throws on the next possession to boost the lead to 16. After the Sixers pulled within eight, Korver nailed a 3 to start a 12-2 run that stretched into the fourth and made it 84-66. But now, the Bulls will have to make do without Rose.

”He’s had a lot of injuries this year,” Thibodeau said. ”It’s been unfortunate. But we do have more than enough to win with. Whatever the circumstances are, we’ll deal with it.”

Notes: The Sixers’ Lavoy Allen sprained his right thumb but is expected to play Tuesday. … This is the third playoff series between Chicago and Philadelphia, with the Bulls beating the Sixers in the 1990 and 1991 conference semifinals. … Chicago took two of three from Philadelphia in the regular season. .. The Sixers have dropped five straight playoff series. … Collins never earned a championship ring when he coached the Bulls. He does have some jewelry, though. ”Jerry has given me six championship watches,” he said of owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Collins coached the Bulls before their championship run in the 1990s.

Chandler might sit out Game 1 with flu

Whether it was playoff gamesmanship or not, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said there was “a strong possibility” center Tyson Chandler could sit out Saturday’s Game 1 vs. the Heat with the flu.

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2012 NBA PLAYOFFS

Chandler was back at the team’s hotel with the flu and fever and missed Friday’s practice ahead of the first-round playoff series. Chandler had already sat out Thursday night’s game vs. Charlotte and stayed back at the hotel.

Not having Chandler would be a devastating blow and it would seem difficult to imagine him not suiting up. But having him at less than 100 percent is a very likely scenario.

“We’re isolating him a bit from his teammates, so it doesn’t spread amongst the players,” Woodson said. “We’ll know more tomorrow. He didn’t eat much. We’re trying to keep fluids in him.”

Chandler, a key to Dallas beating Miami in the NBA Finals last June, missed three games this season and the Knicks gave up 112, 118 and 119 points.

He is a favorite to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year with LeBron James as his toughest competitor.

Feds investigating NBA players union

NEW YORK (AP)

The federal government is investigating the business practices of the NBA players association.

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2012 NBA PLAYOFFS

The union confirmed Friday it has received a subpoena for documents from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and says it will cooperate with the investigation.

The NBPA also said in a statement that it has appointed a special committee to oversee an internal inquiry, including a financial audit.

Recent reports have questioned the NBPA’s finances and spending practices, largely having to do with the hiring of family members and firms that employ relatives of executive director Billy Hunter. Hunter says he will cooperate with the internal inquiry, but will not be in involved in the effort so it remains independent.

The special committee, consisting of members of the NBPA executive committee and other player representatives. The special committee has retained Theodore V. Wells, Jr. and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton Garrison LLP to conduct the inquiry.

The NBPA said in the statement it looks forward to putting the matters to rest.

Carly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, said: ”We have no comment. We don’t confirm or deny investigations.”