Clippers Vs. Grizzlies - Playoffs Round 1, Game 7 - Game Preview

May 11, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen (9) and power forward Zach Randolph (50) block Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) in the second half of game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Staples Center. Grizzlies won 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
2011/2012 NBA Playoffs - Round 1 - Game 6
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vs.
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40-26

41-25
Series tied 3-3
Game 1 - April 29th in Memphis - Clippers 99, Grizzlies 98
Game 2 - May 2nd in Memphis - Grizzlies 105, Clippers 98
Game 3 - May 5th in Los Angeles - Clippers 87, Grizzlies 86
Game 4 - May 7th in Los Angeles - Clippers 101, Grizzlies 97 (OT)
Game 5 - May 9th in Memphis - Grizzlies 92, Clippers 80
Game 6 - May 11th in Los Angeles - Grizzlies 90, Clippers 88
Game 7 - May 13th, 2012, 10 AM, Memphis, FedEx Forum
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Mike Conley
Randy Foye SG Tony Allen
Caron Butler
SF Rudy Gay
Blake Griffin
PF Zach Randolph
DeAndre Jordan
C Marc Gasol
Key reserves:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Gilbert Arenas
Mo Williams SG O.J. Mayo
Nick Young
SF Quincy Pondexter
Reggie Evans
PF Dante Cunningham
Kenyon Martin
C Marreese Speights

The Regular Season Story:

The Big Picture:

It all comes down to this. The first season of the Chris Paul era in Los Angeles could end in Memphis tonight, or the Clippers could move on to face San Antonio on Tuesday night. No matter who wins, something rare will have occurred -- Memphis will have become the ninth team in NBA history to win a seven game series after trailing 3-1, or the Clippers will overcome the 80% winning percentage of home teams in Game 7s. But the fate of the Clippers is more likely to be determined by the state of Chris Paul's hip flexor muscle than the venue of the game. These two teams are very evenly matched -- with Paul at less than full strength, the odds tip heavily in favor of Memphis, no matter where the game is played. The Grizzlies chances are also bolstered by the fact that Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have come alive in the last two games. The Clippers need to do a better job of defending those two or Paul's injury won't matter. As always, I recommend that you check out the Series Preview as well as the game previews from Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5 and Game 6 for more on the teams and the series. Below are just a few more points that seem apropos to Game 7.

The Subplots

  • Key Grizzlies Metrics (regular season):
    Pace: 90.8 (18th of 30 NBA teams)
    Off Rtg: 104.0 (19th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 101.8 (7th of 30)
  • Key Clippers Metrics (regular season):
    Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.5 (4th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.7 (18th of 30)
  • ABC. The Clippers are playing on ABC, and I'm wondering if it's the first time ever. Were they on ABC in 2006 against the Suns? I don't know. Game starts at 10 AM. Jeff Van Gundy starts howling about flops at 10:05. (Actually, I don't know what crew they've got working this one; Van Gundy will probably be in Miami for the second game.)
  • The last time the Clippers played a Game 7. Just for grins, here's the recap I wrote on my original blog from Game 7 of the Western Conference Semis almost six years ago against the Suns. That one did not end well.
  • Paul and Griffin. Home court advantage certainly matters in Game 7, particularly when the teams are evenly matched. But the Clippers have already won once in Memphis, and were competitive in the two losses, so the task is by no means impossible. BUT they need for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to have big games, and that may not be possible if they are at less than full strength. Both were injured in Game 5, Paul with a strained hip flexor and Griffin with a sprained knee. Both were affected by their injuries in Game 6. It's reasonable to expect some progress since Friday, but how much? Paul is the real key. If he's unable to use his quickness to find seams in the Memphis defense, the Clippers are in trouble.
  • Paul in the fourth quarter. Since straining the hip flexor muscle with a little more than seven minutes remaining in Game 5, Paul has 1 point on 2 shots, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers in 4th quarter 11 minutes. Prior to the injury, he had 29 points, 10 assists and 5 turnovers in 42 fourth quarter and overtime minutes. So there's that.
  • How will the refs call it? If the referee's call the game tight on the perimeter, it favors the Clippers. If they allow a ton on contact, it favors the Grizz. As it happens, in each of the last two games in Memphis the officials and the Clippers have not gotten along so well. In Game 2, the Grizzlies shot 39 free throws to the Clippers' 18. In Game 5, the referees called 5 technical fouls on the Clippers, four in just a couple minutes in the third quarter. Let's hope things go a little better today.
  • Must win? So many games get called "must win'? Guess what? This one really is!
  • Paul and Griffin. There's precious little information available about Paul and Griffin and their injuries. The Clippers did not practice yesterday. Paul received treatment for his strained hip flexor, Griffin got an MRI on his knee that revealed no structural damage. The press release the team sent out called them both game time decisions. They'll play -- or at at any rate I'd be shocked if they didn't -- but it remains to be seen how they may be affected.
  • How will the refs call it? If the referee's call the game tight on the perimeter, it favors the Clippers. If they allow a ton on contact, it favors the Grizz. The shoving inside is sort of a wash; let 'em bang, don't let 'em bang, doesn't matter a whole lot, since both teams need interior scoring and both teams like to play physical defense. If the Grizz manhandle Blake Griffin, it's fine, provided they are consistent and allow Reggie Evans to manhandle Zach Randolph, etc. But on the perimeter, and particularly as concerns Chris Paul, it's crucial. Back in L.A. I expect the game to be called in a more Clipper-friendly manner as it was in Game 4, but we'll see.
  • Is Zach back? Zach Randolph was second team All NBA last season and was one of the brightest stars of the playoffs. After returning from knee surgery earlier this season, he's clearly not that guy right now, but he seems to be getting stronger as the series moves along. The last two games have been his best of the series, averaging 18.5 points on 50% shooting and 13 rebounds. If he can give Memphis another strong game, the Grizzlies will likely move forward.
  • Rebounding. The Clippers are getting pounded on the boards, and it really doesn't make a ton of sense. L.A. was a pretty good rebounding team on the season, but they're allowing themselves to get outworked and just generally bullied under the boards this series. If the Clippers want to salvage this series, the can start with rebounding.
  • Keys. Turnovers and Memphis' offensive rebounds. The Clippers did a great job of limiting their own turnovers in Game 6, which helped them stay in a game in which they did not shoot well. They did not however do a good job keeping Memphis off their offensive glass.
  • Don't fall behind early. Although the Clippers have been able to come back throughout this series, they really don't want to fall behind early in this one. If the crowd gets going and the Grizzlies start rolling, it could be a long night.
  • Tottenham. So I adopted Tottenham as my EPL squad this season. They appeared headed for a top 3 finish and a place in the Champions League a couple months ago. There was even some talk of them as legitimate title contenders, though that faded pretty quickly. Spurs have been terrible down the stretch and need a win over Fulham today to finish fourth, which should still allow them to play in the Champions league. Like the Clippers, Spurs were at one point ahead of their much more storied local rival (Arsenal and the Lakers) only for the more established team to forge back ahead. Spurs play at 7 AM Pacific time, and if both Tottenham and the Clippers lose today, it'll suck. Well, really, the Clippers game is all I care about.
  • Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.
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