NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 3 Clippers-Grizzlies preview: Into the Grizzly Den

USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers head into Memphis with a 2-0 lead in their best of seven NBA playoff series. One L.A. road win in Memphis would put the Clippers in a commanding position; if Memphis can win both, we've got a series on our hands.

2013 NBA Playoffs - First Round
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56-26

56-26
Game 3 - April 25th, 2013, 6:30 PM
FedEx Forum, Memphis
Prime Ticket, TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWW 1330 AM
Buy Clippers Tickets
Series Schedule
Clippers lead series 2-0
Game 1 - Sat April 20 in Los Angeles, Clippers 112, Grizzlies 91
Game 2 - Mon April 22 in Los Angeles, Clippers 93, Grizzlies 91
Game 3 - Thu April 25, 6:30 p.m., Memphis, FedEx Forum
Game 4 - Sat April 27, 1:30 p.m., Memphis, FedEx Forum
Game 5 * Tue April 30, Time TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 6 * Fri May 3, Time TBD, Memphis, FedEx Forum
Game 7 * Sun May 5, Time TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
* if necessary
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Mike Conley
Chauncey Billups SG Tony Allen
Caron Butler SF Tayshaun Prince
Blake Griffin PF Zach Randolph
DeAndre Jordan C Marc Gasol
Key Reserves
Eric Bledsoe PG Keyon Dooling
Jamal Crawford SG Jerryd Bayless
Matt Barnes SF Quincy Pondexter
Lamar Odom PF Darrell Arthur
Ryan Hollins C Ed Davis
Regular Season Advanced Stats
91.1 (19th of 30) Pace 88.4 (30th of 30)
110.6 (4th of 30) ORtg 104.9 (17th of 30)
103.6 (8th of 30) DRtg 100.3 (2nd of 30)
Injuries/Suspensions/Other
None
None

The Back Story:

-- October 31, 2012 in Los Angeles | Clippers 101, Grizzlies 92 | Recap | Box Score

-- January 14, 2013 in Memphis | Clippers 99, Grizzlies 73 | Recap | Box Score

-- March 13, 2013 in Los Angeles | Grizzlies 96, Clippers 85 | Recap | Box Score

-- April 13, 2013 in Memphis | Clippers 91, Grizzlies 87 | Recap | Box Score

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have collected two wins in two games, coming in two distinct varieties. In Game 1 they led wire-to-wire, pulling away in the fourth quarter to win by 21. Game 2 was closer (though the Clippers still led most of the way), with Memphis erasing a 12 point fourth quarter deficit and tying the game late, only to have their hearts broken by Chris Paul's buzzer-beater. The Clippers have done a great job on the boards in both games, limiting the Grizzlies to 12 offensive rebounds total, and they've shot well from the field (.513 in the two games). If L.A. can find their three point shooting (they're 9-34 overall after going 2-15 in Game 2) then it could be the end for Memphis. Teams up 2-0 in the NBA playoffs almost always win the series -- 94% of the time anyway -- but then again, most of the time the team up 2-0 has a much better record. With two 56 win teams, it could be a very different story. The bottom line is the Clippers would love to win one of the next two games in Memphis. If the series goes back to L.A. tied 2-2, it's wide open again. If the Clippers can take a 3-1 lead back home, the long odds of a Memphis comeback get even longer.

The Antagonist:

The Grizzlies got monster games from Mike Conley and Tony Allen in Game 2 -- and still lost. They have yet to really get Zach Randolph going (he's averaged 13 points and six rebounds in the two games, limited by foul trouble) but aside from Zach the Grizzlies can't really hope for a much better game than they played Monday -- yet they still came up a little short. In Game 1 Lionel Hollins played his bench 101 minutes (call it 91 minutes out of a potential 230 not counting garbage time). In Game 2, reserves played a total of 44 minutes out of a possible 240. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol each played as many minutes by themselves as the entire Memphis bench. Obviously, it worked better in Game 2, and it's not difficult to see that Memphis' starters have to be out there, so I think we can expect more of the same in Game 3. Conley will play essentially the entire game (sorry Keyon) as will Gasol and probably Allen. Randolph will too if he can avoid foul trouble (which he probably can't unless he gets some home cooking in Memphis from the officials). So the game may come down to how a fresh second unit of the Clippers looks against the weary Memphis starters in the fourth quarter.

The Subplots

  • Series Preview. Be sure to check out the Series Preview; all the good stuff in there is still plenty applicable.
  • The Billups question. Eric Bledsoe has been a Grizzly killer for two seasons now. Yet Chauncey Billups has played 44 minutes to Bledsoe's 32 in the series so far. Trust is an issue, and clearly VDN trusts Billups implicitly while Bledsoe is not always the most trustworthy point guard. But come on. Isn't it obvious who the impact players are? Isn't Bledsoe a guy the Clippers need on the floor? Especially considering how Mike Conley was beating Chris Paul on Monday. It didn't help in Game 2 that Billups was just 2-8. We all know that Chauncey isn't going to shy away from the big shot -- and that's kind of what scares me. I get it that Billups made 'Big Shots' for the '04 Pistons -- but I'm not sure I want him taking those shots for the '13 Clippers.
  • Must win. Short of an actual elimination game, this is as close to a "must win" for Memphis as you can get in sports. No NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven game series. Teams down 0-3 have zero series wins in 103 tries in NBA history. It doesn't get much better in other sports. Basically, you don't want to be down 0-3.
  • Three point shooting. Jamal Crawford 2-9, Caron Butler 1-4, Matt Barnes 0-3. Those three led the Clippers in three point attempts this season, and they're 3-16 in the playoffs so far. Imagine how lopsided these games would have been if the Clippers could hit a three pointer? Hopefully that will change tonight.
  • To sub or not to sub? Prior to Game 2 we discussed the fact that the Grizzlies relied heavily on Jerryd Bayless and other bench players in Game 1. Bayless played 30 minutes to 17 for Tony Allen in the first game, which seems like a clear win for the Clippers. In Game 2, Allen played 39 minutes and Bayless played nine. The Grizzlies have little choice but to ride their starters -- the bench isn't that great, and the starting lineup is what gives them their lock-down defense identity. I expect Hollins to ride his starters the rest of the series.
  • Allen. Part of the reason Hollins gave up on Bayless was that Jamal Crawford was eating him up. Confidence is an amazing thing, and it's not as if Crawford was beating Bayless badly -- JCrossover just knew he could beat Bayless, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don't believe a guy can guard you, then he can't, and Crawford made some ridiculous shots as a result. Once Hollins stuck Allen on Crawford the party was over. But Allen can't guard two guys at once, and if he's on Crawford, then a lesser defender is on Paul. The Clippers have a lot of weapons.
  • DPOY. Marc Gasol won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award on Wednesday and it was well-deserved. His positioning is impeccable, he's got quick hands and surprisingly quick feet, his basketball IQ is off the charts, and he's really, really BIG. Allen was fifth in voting, and LeBron James was the only perimeter defender with more votes than Allen. In other words, the sportswriters voting for the DPOY think that the best interior defender in the league and the second best perimeter defender in the league are both on the Grizzlies -- and that seems about right. Conley and Prince aren't exactly slouches either. This is a good defensive team.
  • Conley. After struggling more often than not against the Clippers going back to last year's playoffs, Mike Conley came up with a huge game Monday night, scoring a career playoff high 28. In fact, that's the second highest scoring game of his entire career, regular season or playoffs. With Randolph struggling and Rudy Gay exiled to Canada, the Grizzlies need offense from somewhere, and Conley seems to be their best option. Can he put two strong games together?
  • Hollins/Turiaf. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has flip-flopped between Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf all season. It was Hollins early, then it was Turiaf, and for a brief time it was neither as he experimented with a small lineup featuring Grant Hill at the four, and he went back to Hollins at the end of the season. But in both playoff games, he's gone to Hollins early, only to switch to Turiaf. The simple fact is that Hollins is way too frail to battle with Gasol, and he can't guard him without fouling (he's picked up seven in 12 minutes so far). Turiaf is simply the better option against Gasol -- but he does raise the question of foul shooting.'
  • TNT. The game is once again on TNT, which means we get to once again listen to the expert and completely unbiased analysis of Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Gee, I can't wait. Those of us in Southern California can at least opt for Ralph and Mike on Prime Ticket. In the rest of the country, maybe grab a bite to eat at halftime.
  • Connections. Zach Randolph is a former Clipper who they traded to Memphis to make room for Blake Griffin after winning the lottery and making Griffin the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. Keyon Dooling, who came out of retirement to sign with the Grizzlies a couple weeks ago and immediately became their backup point guard, began his 13 year NBA career as a Clipper. Prince and Billups were teammates for over six seasons in Detroit and won an NBA title together. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and assistant coach Henry Bibby each played for the San Diego Clippers in the early 80s. Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni was head coach of the Grizzlies for a season and a half from 07 to 09.
  • Get the Memphis perspective at Grizzly Bear Blues.
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