Clippers Vs. Grizzlies - Game 2 - Team Grab and Grope

MEMPHIS, TN - MAY 02: O.J. Mayo #32 and Rudy Gay #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies defend Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on May 2, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There's one stat that jumps out at you from the box score of Game 2 of the playoff series between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies. A 39 to 18 discrepancy at the free throw line can't help but catch your eye, especially in a playoff game decided by seven points. When ALL of the difference comes in the fourth quarter (23 to 3 Grizzlies, so not strictly speaking all, just 20 of the plus-21 for the Grizzlies in the game), it is even more difficult to take. Even allowing for the 10 Memphis free throws in the final minute when the Clippers we fouling intentionally, the difference is pretty stark. So what's the deal? Do the Clippers have a legitimate gripe about the officiating in Game 2?

Meh.

Look, there's little question that the officials can have a huge impact on this series one way or the other. If O.J. Mayo and the other Memphis defenders assigned to Chris Paul are allowed to body him and have their hands all over him on every possession with impunity, it will clearly benefit the Grizzlies. We all know that basketball is a physical game and that the majority of fouls are judgement calls. Based on a strict interpretation of the rule book, there is surely at least one foul committed on every possession of a basketball game, but nobody wants to watch that. And players will adjust as appropriate. If you call it tighter, they'll back off. If you allow a little grabbing, then they'll grab some more. The biggest key of course is consistency (which you could argue was lacking last night), but nearly as important in this series is simply how tight it's called. If the refs are going to allow it to be physical, advantage Memphis. So be it.

But there were two other numbers in Game 2 that were far more important than Memphis' 39 free throws: their 16 offensive rebounds and the Clippers' 21 turnovers. I went out of my way after Game 1 to point out that the 18 turnovers in that game weren't a huge problem since only 3 of them were steals. Well, the Grizzlies had 13 steals in Game 2, so yeah, it's a big deal now.

It's worth noting that the free throw discrepancy, the offensive rebounds and the turnovers are not completely unrelated. When Tony Allen is allowed to obliterate Chris Paul on a rebound, when Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are allowed to push their counterparts under the basket, then plays that could and arguably should appear in the box score as Memphis fouls instead show up as offensive rebounds and more often than not second chance points.

Likewise, on at least two occasions in the fourth quarter, Memphis steals were really Memphis fouls. The most blatant was when Rudy Gay reached in and hit Eric Bledsoe's elbow while missing the ball altogether. Later in the fourth, as Paul split a double team, Mayo swiped the ball with his right hand while pretty clearly fouling Paul with his left. So again we see that a tighter standard for what's a foul would have changed more than one stat in the box score.

But too bad. Blake Griffin can't allow himself to be pushed under the basket. He has to put up enough resistance that a foul MUST be called. The refs could certainly have bailed out the Clippers on a few occasions Wednesday night, but there's no reason the Clippers should be getting pushed around like this in the first place. Likewise Paul will just have to adjust to the physical play if the refs are going to allow it. And by the way, of his five turnovers, four of them were him throwing passes away and had little to do with overly physical defense. There were plenty of fouls that weren't called, but the Clippers still need to do a much better job of protecting the ball.

And let's not call the Grizzlies dirty or the refs corrupt. The Grizzlies play how they play; watching last night's game, I feel like the better nickname might be Team Grab and Grope as opposed to Team Grit and Grind, but it's up to the officials to determine what's allowed and what's not allowed. Sure, it hurts that at one point in the fourth quarter the Clippers had five wing players nursing injuries on the bench, four of whom were wounded in two games in Memphis. But does anyone really think that Gay intentionally targeted Bledsoe's ulnar nerve? Is Gay a ninja? Does he also know the Vulcan death grip?

The injuries clearly impacted the decisive fourth quarter, but it's just one of those things. Mo Williams had hit two straight before suffering an arm contusion; he missed his next shot badly and left the game shortly thereafter not to return. Bledsoe had just gotten a steal and the momentum seemed to be swinging to the Clippers when he was injured. He stayed in the game for a time, but badly missed a layup in his only shot attempt after the injury and left the game soon after. The Clippers played crunch time on Wednesday with Randy Foye and Bobby Simmons as the wings, and clearly those would not have been the choices had everyone been healthy. Let's just hope that Williams and Bledsoe and Nick Young (who suffered a sprained thumb) are all well enough to play on Saturday (I assume they will be).

The good news from Wednesday's loss is that several of the issues seem to be within the Clippers control to correct. The Grizzlies are a good offensive rebounding team, but they're not that good. There's no reason for the Clippers to give up 11 rebounds in the first half or 16 in the game. And turnovers have always been a key to this series. If the Clippers are going to turn it over 21 times, it will be very difficult to beat Memphis. These are problems that can and should be fixed by Game 3.

How the refs choose to call the game is beyond the Clippers control. If they allow a lot of grabbing and groping from Team Grit and Grind it may not end well for the Clippers.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Clips Nation

You must be a member of Clips Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Clips Nation. You should read them.

Join Clips Nation

You must be a member of Clips Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Clips Nation. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker