THE LOS ANGELES Clippers refused to let a third chance to knock the Memphis Grizzlies out of the playoffs slip away.
Kenyon Martin scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, and the Clippers advanced to the Western Conference semifinals with an 82-72 win over the Grizzlies in Game 7 on Sunday in Memphis.
"That's why it's seven games," Martin said. "If you don't do it before, you get another chance. So they did what they had to do, they came and stole home court back on our floor . . . We had a chance to close it out. We knew we let it go, an opportunity get away."
The Clippers blew an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter in Game 6 Friday night on their home court. So Martin huddled the Clippers together at the start of the fourth quarter Sunday, and the veteran led the bench in outscoring the Grizzlies, 25-16. Chris Paul had the only bucket by a starter in the final 12 minutes, and the Clippers' bench outscored the Memphis reserves overall, 41-11.
"Our bench was our MVP," Clippers guard Randy Foye said. "They realized what they had to do. We had a lot of guys hurt, so we just continued to grind."
Now, the Clippers have their third postseason series win in 41 years and their second since relocating to Los Angeles. They last beat Denver in 2006. The Clippers also avoided becoming the ninth NBA team to blow a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series in moving on to play the top-seeded Spurs starting Tuesday night in San Antonio.
"I want the guys to enjoy this, and then we'll regroup tomorrow and focus in on that," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "But obviously another big challenge for us."
Paul scored 19 points despite playing with a strained right hip flexor. Nick Young had nine of his 13 off the bench in the fourth as the Clippers finished off the series with their biggest margin of victory. Paul was so confident of victory he bought plane tickets for his wife and son to San Antonio on Saturday.
"I felt like we should have won earlier," Paul said. "But it doesn't matter. As long as you win, I think it is a step in the right direction for our franchise.
Clippers star Blake Griffin scored only eight points and looked tentative most of the game with a sprained left knee.
Del Negro said Griffin's knee tightened up on him as the game went on, and Griffin played only 1:39 of the fourth quarter.
Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol each had 19 for Memphis, which lost a Game 7 at Oklahoma City a year ago in the second round of the playoffs. Zach Randolph had a game-high 12 rebounds.
"Unfortunately, no one on the bench stepped up and helped us," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
The Clippers, who trailed 56-55 after three quarters, took control by opening the fourth with an 11-2 run started by a jumper by Martin. He tipped in a shot for a 66-58 lead with 8:41 left. Mo Williams matched the Clippers' biggest lead to that point at 10 with a three-pointer pushing it to 71-61 with 7:04 left in a 16-5 spurt to open the quarter.
"They hit shots in a hurry," Gay said. "They made plays off our turnovers, and they just converted, something we weren't doing at that time."
In another game *
At Miami, LeBron James scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his first game as a three-time MVP, Dwyane Wade finished with 29 despite struggling from the floor, and the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers, 95-86, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Chris Bosh scored 13 points for Miami, but left late in the first half with a lower abdominal injury and did not return. The Heat outscored Indiana, 25-16, in the fourth, with Wade and James combining for 22 of those points.
David West and Roy Hibbert each scored 17 points and combined for 23 rebounds for the Pacers.