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Clippers Vs. Grizzlies - Playoffs Round 1, Game 6 - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Playoffs - Round 1 - Game 6

Clippers lead series 3-2
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, 2012, 6:00 PM, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 7 - May 13th, 2012, TBD, Memphis, FedEx Forum *
* if necessary
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:

There's really not a lot to say about this game that hasn't already been said. Everything more or less boils down to injuries tonight. If Chris Paul (strained hip flexor) and Blake Griffin (strained knee) can play at something resembling full strength, the Clippers should win. If they can't, you have to assume the Grizzlies will win. This series has been too competitive, and the Clippers stars, Paul especially, have been too important to pretend that the Clippers aren't at a massive disadvantage if they're at less than full strength. I might also be concerned that the Grizzlies were finally starting to be the Grizzlies based on the fist half of Game 5 -- had it not been followed by the second half of Game 5. If Gasol and Randolph are back, and if the Grizzlies are committed to pounding the Clippers inside, then the Clippers might be in trouble even at full strength. But Memphis has not shown that commitment -- at all -- so I think the 12 for 14 27 point first quarter for Gasol and Randolph on Wednesday has got to be viewed as a total outlier. 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 for more on the teams and the series. Below are just a few more points that seem apropos to Game 6.

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)
  • KCOP. You may or may not be aware, as it was an "if necessary" game, but with both the Dodgers and Angels in action in night games on the Fox Sports channels, the Clippers game tonight is on KCOP, channel 13. It's also on ESPN of course, but you might have to listen to Jon Barry if you watch that one, and nobody wants that. For Ralph and Mike, turn to channel 13. Game time is 6 PM.
  • Must win? Tonight's game has been described many times as a must win for the Clippers, as their Game 7. As it is their final home game in the series, the one that represents the stolen home court advantage from the fantastic comeback in Game 1, you can see the logic. If the Clippers don't win, then the Grizzlies will once again have home court advantage, not to mention all the momentum, as the series heads to Memphis Sunday. BUT... the Clippers won Game 1 in Memphis and were on their way to another comeback in Game 5 when Paul was injured. There's no question in my mind that the Clippers win Game 5 if Paul doesn't get hurt, and I doubt there's much of doubt in the minds of Memphis fans. The question of Paul's effectiveness is MUCH more relevant to the Clippers chances in any game than the location of the game. I hope he's good to go and the Clippers win Game 6. If not, then I hope he's good to go, and that the Clippers win Game 7.
  • 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.
  • I'm not a doctor, but... (part 1). I'm not as concerned with Griffin's injury as I am with Paul's. Not to mention that Griffin, while vital to the team's chances, is less crucial that Paul. I can imagine a scenario in which the Griffin-less Clippers beat the Grizzlies (it would involve a lot of Chris Paul, great defense and some hot perimeter shooting); I really can't imagine them winning without Paul, though anything's possible. But back to the knee, if there's no structural damage and the swelling isn't bad (as Griffin has said), then it's more about pain management than anything else. The strength should be OK, and hopefully the flexibility is good if swelling has been under control. Blake can play through the pain.
  • I'm not a doctor, but... (part 2). As for Paul's hip flexor, that's more problematic. Even if he plays on it, it could affect his quickness, his explosiveness, he agility. Paul doesn't live on athleticism as much as some NBA players, but he's deceptively quick and it's what makes him special, especially at the end of games. He's ball handling, guile and cunning will allow him to be effective regardless of the injury -- but when it comes time to turn the corner, to cross-over Tony Allen on the final possession, that extra bit of zip may not be there, and that could be a huge problem.
  • 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.
  • What Series Have I Been Watching? Maybe we're overly sensitive to it, but it seems like everyone wants to insist that the Grizz are the better team, and the Clippers were just plain lucky to go up 3-1. Now that it's 3-2, lots of people seem to think the Grizz could become the 9th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit (or 10th if Denver gets there first against the Lakers). But the Clippers have dominated -- DOMINATED -- late game situations throughout this series, and isn't that what really counts? Not to mention that the Clippers two losses each occurred in games where multiple players were injured in the fourth quarter. By the end of Game 2, four of the Clippers wings were sidelined (Caron Butler didn't play at all) and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were both injured in Game 5. Isn't it painfully obvious from the results that a full-strength Clippers squad is simply better? Not a lot better, I'll grant you that, but better, based largely on the late game brilliance of Chris Paul.
  • Mo Williams. Lost in the Paul and Griffin injuries, in the Memphis booing and everything else that happened, was the play of Mo Williams. Williams led the Clippers in scoring with 20 points, and it was his first 20 point game in exactly eight weeks. For the first three months of the season, big scoring games from Williams were fairly common -- he had 26, 25 and 26 in consecutive games in January while Paul was hurt, and had two 20 point games and a season high 33 in the course of four games in March. But he's been much quieter since. Part of that is opportunity -- Randy Foye has played well as the starter, and Eric Bledsoe has emerged as a guy that needs minutes too. But another big game from Williams (some of his prior big games have come in bunches as you can see above) would be more than welcome tonight.
  • Gasol. Marc Gasol scored 12 points in the first quarter of Game 5, and 6 points in the second. In the series, he also had a 10 point first quarter in Game 1 -- and in 17 other quarters and an overtime period, he's scored as many as 5 once. In two full games in LA, plus an overtime, he scored 19 points, one more than he scored in the first half Wednesday. So which Gasol are we going to see tonight?
  • Defending Paul. For the first three games of the series, Lionel Hollins primarily used a combination of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo to defend Chris Paul, with Tony Allen getting the assignment briefly at the end of the games. In Game 4, Allen was assigned to Paul from the opening tip. In Game 5, Allen drew the Paul assignment, but logged only 24 minutes. The bottom line though, as Hollins said after Game 5, is that the only thing that has stopped Paul in this series has been a pulled muscle. Let's hope that's not the case tonight.
  • Turnovers. After averaging almost 19 turnovers per game in the first three, the Clippers have been better at taking care of the ball in the last two. That resulted in a win in Game 4, but not in Game 5 as Paul's injury cut their comeback short.
  • Offensive rebounds. Another thing the Clippers did better in Game 5 was to keep the Grizzlies off the offensive glass. Memphis got just 10 offensive rebounds.
  • Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.