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Clippers Vs. Grizzlies - Playoffs Round 1, Game 2 - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Playoffs - Round 1 - Game 2

Clippers Lead Series 1-0
Game 1 - April 29th in Memphis - Clippers 99, Grizzlies 98
Game 2 - May 2nd, 2012, 6:30 PM, Memphis, FedEx Forum
Game 3 - May 5th, 2012, 1:30 PM, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 4 - May 7th, 2012, TBD, Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
Game 5 - May 9th, 2012, TBD, Memphis, FedEx Forum *
Game 6 - May 11th, 2012, TBD, 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
Nick Young
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
Bobby Simmons
SF Quincy Pondexter
Reggie Evans
PF Dante Cunningham
Kenyon Martin
C Marreese Speights

The Regular Season Story:

The Big Picture:

How do the Clippers follow up on their comeback for the ages from Sunday night? Other teams have come back from 21 down in the fourth quarter, but none of them dug the hole a little deeper and waited four minutes to begin the comeback. The Clippers went on an incredible 26-1 run over the course about seven minutes of basketball to take the lead, gave it back for a few seconds, and then Chris Paul hit the go ahead free throws and the Clippers held on to win. How will Memphis respond after the biggest collapse in playoff history, suffered on their home court? Will we see the Clippers of the first 40 minutes, or the Clippers of the final 8? Be sure to check out the Series Preview; most of it still applies. However, there are some major new storylines to check out below.

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)
  • Caron Butler. The Clippers lost starting small forward Caron Butler in Game 1 when he suffered a fractured metacarpal on an innocuous play in the third quarter. Butler is out 4-6 weeks, which means the rest of this series for sure. That makes two starters, both significant off-season acquisitions, that the Clippers are without, as Butler joins Chauncey Billups on the sideline. Billups of course tore his Achilles tendon way back in February. Given these injuries, the trade deadline acquisition of Nick Young may turn into the second most important acquisition of Neil Olshey's stellar year (I'll leave you to guess about the most important one). Young can play both wing positions, and as such takes up slack for the losses of both Butler and Billups. Young was also one of the big heroes of Game 1 with back-to-back-to-back three pointers in sixty seconds that cut the lead from 12 to 3, and he also played good defense on Rudy Gay. Young will get the start and likely the lion's share of the minutes at small forward tonight. What happens with the backup minutes remains to be seen. Do the Clippers go small with a three guard lineup and Randy Foye at the three? Do they go big with Kenyon Martin? Or do they go the more traditional route with Bobby Simmons or forgotten man Ryan Gomes?
  • Tony Allen. On the Grizzlies side, wing defender extraordinaire Tony Allen is experiencing some knee trouble. He skipped practice on Tuesday, at which point there was some question as to whether he'd be able to play. But the latest word out of Memphis is that he will play and will not have any limitations. That second part seems hard to figure, given that his knee was bad enough to skip practice just a day ago.
  • Defense. 26-1 is an amazing run over the course of eight minutes of an NBA game. But let's be clear -- of those two numbers, the 1 is the more jaw-dropping. In 39 minutes on Sunday, the Grizzlies scored 95 points. Over the final 9 minutes, they scored 3. Memphis missed some shots certainly, but other than a Marreese Speights layup (well challenged by Chris Paul, by the way), I would not say they missed anything easy. The Clippers contested every shot, pressured the ball and generated turnovers, and simply didn't give the Grizzlies anything for nine minutes of basketball. Can they come out and do that in the first quarter, rather than waiting until they're down 20? Blake Griffin, whose defense is rightly criticized from time to time, should be recognized for the job he did in the fourth quarter Sunday. He battled Marc Gasol (leaving Reggie Evans to contend with Z-Bo), was very active with his help defense, and did a good job on the likes of Rudy Gay on switches. It demonstrates how effective a defender he can be when he's motivated and focused.
  • Home court advantage. As I said in the Series Preview, "going on the road first gives you the chance to steal a game on the road first." All of the pressure is on the Grizzlies tonight. If Memphis wins, they still will have lost a home game and in the process lost home court advantage. If the Clippers win, the series is as good as over -- it's incredibly rare to come back from losing the first two games at home.
  • Turnovers. This is a massive key to the series, and at first glance you would interpret the Game 1 box score as bad news for the Clippers. 18 turnovers is five more than their season average, and the most they've committed against the Grizzlies this season. But look again. The Grizzlies only had three steals -- none for Mike Conley, none for Tony Allen. A large number of the Clippers turnovers were self-inflicted. Five traveling violations, five offensive fouls (three on illegal screens), three passes thrown away. Pressure defense had something to do with a few of those miscues, but most of them were unforced errors. That was playoff jitters early, and urgency late. The Clippers need to do as well as they did Sunday of limiting the live ball turnovers, while also cleaning up their act.
  • Zach Randolph. He could still become the player he was last season, he could start feeling better physically, everything might fall into place for him -- I guess it's possible. But he was 3-13 on Sunday, and when they went to him in the fourth quarter, he didn't come close to scoring (thanks in large part to the defense of Reggie Evans). Without Randolph to get them tough buckets, the Grizzlies are susceptible to scoring droughts - like for instance no field goals in almost nine minutes. He's just not the same player since returning from knee surgery.
  • Chris Paul's groin. Paul showed no ill-effects of the groin sprain he suffered during the last week of the regular season in Atlanta. That is great news for the Clippers.
  • Playoff experience. Clipper starters Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye as well as reserve Eric Bledsoe all played in their first playoff game Sunday, and did so on the road in front of a hostile and very boisterous crowd. It definitely showed early as the Clippers seemed overwhelmed by the situation. But by the fourth quarter they seemed to have settled in (at least Griffin and Bledsoe, who were on the floor for the comeback, had). You have to figure the Clippers will handle the first quarter better tonight.
  • The fake key matchup. If Tony Allen on Chris Paul is the key matchup, then advantage Clippers. Allen didn't defend Paul until the fourth quarter in Game 1, and we all know what happened in the fourth quarter of Game 1. Allen is a great defender, there's really no question about that. I don't know exactly why Paul is immune to him, but he certainly seems to be. Like a jiu-jitsu champion, Paul uses his opponent's strength against him. Allen is hyper-aggressive as a defender, and Paul tends to turn that against him, drawing fouls, crossing him over, etc. It is not easy to get steals off of Paul, and if Allen is going for those steals but coming up empty, then Paul has the advantage.
  • Perimeter shooting. The most amazing stat from the Game 1 box score (aside from 26-1, which is more of a game flow thing anyway) is three point shooting. The Grizzlies hit a season high 11 threes on 16 tries (69 percent) while the Clippers were just 6 for 18 (33 percent), and had to make 5 of 6 in the fourth quarter to get there. In general, the Clippers need to win this category. On the other hand, it's great to get a win when the Grizzlies were shooting lights out.
  • Eric Bledsoe. Second year guard Eric Bledsoe played the entire fourth quarter on Sunday and his defense and energy and some timely jump shots helped change the game. With Butler out and Young needing to play all of his minutes at the three, and Foye playing some minutes at the three as well, there will be even more minutes now for Bledsoe, which is not a bad thing. Bledsoe (listed at 6'1" but really closer to 6'0") is so strong and so athletic that in VDN's small lineups he will no doubt wind up defending some much bigger players, like O.J. Mayo (6'4"), Tony Allen (6'4") and Quincy Pondexter (6'6"). He could even see some time on the 6'8" Rudy Gay. And he'll probably hold his own.
  • Adjustments. In a seven game playoff series, the teams will be very well acquainted with each other by the end. Heck, they're already pretty well acquainted with each other. The process of making adjustments starts now.
  • Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.