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Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

Staples Center
April 13th, 2011, 7:30 PM
FS West, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Mo Williams
PG Mike Conley
Eric Gordon SG Tony Allen
Jamario Moon
SF Sam Young
Blake Griffin
PF Zach Randolph
DeAndre Jordan
C Marc Gasol

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

Despite all the injuries and all the disappointments and all the frustrations, you can't deny this season has been special. Maybe not much different as far as results go, but definitely special in that the flashes we've seen have been more memorable than anything we've witnessed in a long, long time. You can choose to lament the fact that they're only flashes and may end up being nothing more, but I'd rather focus on what the Clippers have going for them. They have Blake Griffin. They have Eric Gordon. They have youth and athleticism at almost every position. That's a start most teams would kill for. And after a 1-13 beginning to the season, the Clippers have weathered injuries, rookie starters and new teammates to play some pretty respectable ball and, at times, out-play the best teams in the league. These past several months have been one big display of potential, ineptitude, improvement, exhilaration, inconsistency, discouragement and pride. And now it's finally coming to a close, and I expect the Clippers to give us one last thing to hold on to from these past 82 games. Remember what this season felt like, because, for better or worse, next year will be different.

The Antagonist:

As of late Tuesday night, even Shane Battier was unsure of the Grizzlies' standing in the playoff picture. (Shane, if you're reading this -- and I know you are -- and still wondering, here's the deal for Wednesday night. If you lose, you play the Spurs in the first round. If you win and the Hornets win, you play the Spurs. If you win, the Hornets lose and the Lakers lose, you play the Mavericks. If you win, the Hornets lose and the Lakers win, you play the Lakers.) Lionel Hollins, though? That guy knows exactly where Memphis stands, which would explain why he held Zach Randolph and Tony Allen out of the Grizzlies' 102-89 loss to the Blazers last night. Hollins also played Hamed Haddadi 20 minutes, Greivis Vasquez 17 minutes, Ishmael Smith 13 minutes and Leon Powe 12 minutes. In other words, the Grizzlies flat-out tanked last night. Surprisingly, the game was tied at halftime, but the Grizz eventually got their desired end-result, a loss. All in an effort to avoid a first-round matchup with the Lakers. Of course, Memphis made the decision to practically throw the game before Andrew Bynum hyperextended his surgically-repaired right knee last night. Does Bynum's injury lessen the Grizzlies' fear of playing the Lakers? Maybe, maybe not. On one hand, the Lakers become less intimidating in the playoffs with Bynum at less than 100 percent, and far less intimidating if he doesn't play at all. On the other, Bynum said after last night's game that he was feeling better and that he would be fine (though I have my doubts; this is Andrew Bynum we're talking about, after all). And it just might be that the Grizzlies would still rather face the Spurs than a gimpy Lakers team. Personally, I would've loved to see Tony Allen put his hands in Kobe Bryant's pockets for six or seven games, but it's understandable that no one would want to play the defending champs. The Spurs, despite their No. 1 seed, just don't seem as formidable (I still think San Antonio would beat Memphis in six). So what does all this mean for the Clippers? Probably more tanking by the Grizzlies tonight. It might not make for the most riveting season finale, but at least Blake Griffin will likely get a few chances to dunk on Hamed Haddadi. Now that's riveting!

The Subplots

  • Wait a minute. What if the Grizzlies actually decide to try? If the Hornets beat the Mavericks tonight, it doesn't matter what the Grizz do -- regardless, they'll end up playing the Spurs. But if the Hornets lose to the Mavericks -- a definite possibility (the game's in Dallas, and the Mavs could steal the No. 2 seed if the Lakers lose in Sacramento) -- the Grizzlies have an outside shot at drawing Dallas in the first round, which would be preferable to matchups with either San Antonio or Los Angeles. By the way, it wouldn't be surprising if the Lakers do lose to the Kings. You know Power Balance Pavilion is going to be bumping, as tonight likely marks the last NBA game ever in Sacramento, and the Lakers will be without Bynum (for obvious reasons), Matt Barnes (a not-quite-so-injured but still troublesome right knee) and Steve Blake (chicken pox; could it be that our old friend Steve conveniently timed his pox to coincide with the start of the Lakers' postseason?). But as the Portland game showed, the Grizzlies wouldn't mind taking their chances against the Spurs, and a lot would have to go right for Memphis to set up a showdown with Dallas. I could be wrong, but chances are, the Grizz will take this one easy.
  • Speaking of "tanking." After what happened to Bynum last night, how smart does Gregg Popovich look for resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in the same game? Just another reason for Lionel Hollins to sit a couple of his usual starters tonight. At the very least, you can bet on Zach Randolph and Tony Allen being no-gos again. Following last night's loss, Hollins said that both players are banged up and that he wants to keep them fresh for the playoffs. Nice cover, Lionel, but we understand.
  • Grizzlies' starting lineup. Your guess is as good as mine. Against the Blazers, the Grizzlies started Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Sam Young, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol. Outside of Gasol, that's an undersized lineup, which if used again, would bode well for the Clippers. It should be noted, though, that Battier played 30 minutes off the bench last night. The 6-foot-8 forward can hurt the Clips with his 3-point shooting, post-ups and intelligence, but he did score just four points in 26 minutes in the Clippers' 82-81 win last Tuesday.
  • Draft-pick implications. At 31-50, the Clippers have locked up the eighth-worst record in the league. (Coincidentally, they ended last season tied for the eighth spot from the bottom, at 29-53.) Which means they've guaranteed themselves a 2.8 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Of course, in the event that they somehow do win the lottery, it would be a huge blow for the Clippers, since they traded their first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Baron Davis-Mo Williams deal. Fortunately, even if the Clips do end up giving Cleveland a high pick, this is a weak draft, and one that is still getting weaker. On Monday, Perry Jones announced that he would be returning to Baylor next season, joining Jared Sullinger, Jordan Hamilton, John Henson and other probable lottery picks who have decided to stay in school.
  • A programming note. This game will be broadcast on ESPN, as well as on Fox Sports West. Obviously, ESPN didn't envision a game featuring both a lottery squad and a team intentionally tanking to avoid the Lakers, but you get the feeling that Blake Griffin will have at least one astounding highlight in the Clippers' last contest of the season. Speaking of which, I'm really, really going to miss watching Griffin over these next few months, and possibly more, provided the impending lockout drags out as long as most predict.
  • Superstar for one game: Hamed Haddadi. I can dream, can't I?
  • Famous Quotation:

    The world is everything that happens to
    Be true. The stars at night seem to suggest
    The shapes of what might be. If it were best,
    Even, to have it there (such a great bear!
    All hung with stars!), there still would be no bear.
    John Hollander - The Great Bear
  • Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.