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Clippers Vs. Grizzlies - Playoffs Round 1, Game 4 - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Playoffs - Round 1 - Game 4

Clippers lead series 2-1
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, 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
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:

After three games in this series, all we can say for certain is that these teams are evenly matched. The Grizzlies are a couple of Rudy Gay jumps shots at the buzzer from being up 3-0, yet the Clippers only loss came in a game they finished with four key wing players injured on the bench. The series is a contrast in styles, with the Grizzlies trying to wreak havoc and bully the Clippers into submission, while the Clippers want to protect the ball and let Chris Paul work his magic in the half court. There have been impressive runs by each team, but neither one seems to be able to put the opponent away. The good news for the Clippers is that in the two games in which they've had a reasonably complete roster to work with, they've dominated the fourth quarter to secure the victory, coming from behind in both Games 1 and 3. Every game in a playoff series is big, but this one looms larger than most. If the Clippers win, they take a commanding 3-1 lead. But if Memphis takes this one they knot the series at 2 apiece and recapture home court advantage. basically turning the contest into a best of three series with two games in Memphis. So whoever wins this game would have to be considered the favorite to win this highly competitive series. As always, I recommend that you check out the Series Preview as well as the game previews from Games 2 and 3 for more on the teams and the series. Below are the points that seem apropos to Game 4.

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 starting small forward broke a bone in his hand in Game 1 after which he was declared out for 4-6 weeks. He missed Game 2, but then decided to tough it out in Game 3 wearing a protective brace on his injured left (non-shooting) hand. They don't call him Tuff Juice for nothing. After watching his Dallas teammates win rings without him last year, he apparently has had enough of having great seats to playoff games. Looking at the box score, you wouldn't think Butler was a huge factor in Game 3 -- 4 points on 2-7 shooting, 3 rebounds, a steal, a block -- but while he was on the floor, Rudy Gay made just a single shot, and Caron's mere presence no doubt inspired his teammates.
  • Other injuries. Mo Williams (bruised forearm), Eric Bledsoe (bruised elbow) and Nick Young (sprained thumb) all played in Game 3 after suffering injuries in the second half of Game 2. Bledsoe played the final 10 minutes and was a part of the stifling Clippers defense that held the Grizzlies to a single field goal in over 11 minutes. Williams hit a pair of threes and hit one as well, so it seems as it all three of them will be fine going forward.
  • Defense. In the two Clippers victories, L.A. has more or less shut down Memphis in the fourth quarter. In Game 1 the Grizzlies scored just 3 points in the last 9 minutes. In Game 3, Memphis was held to one field goal and just 9 points until the last 23 seconds, when Rudy Gay hit a pair of three pointers to give the Grizzlies a chance. Reggie Evans and Eric Bledsoe have been a big part of the defensive units that have shut down the Grizzlies. In the series, when Bledsoe and Evans have been on the floor with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are +28 in about 16 fourth quarter minutes. That unit did not play together in Game 2, due to Bledsoe's fourth quarter injury. In a series that has been nip and tuck, the Paul/Griffin/Bledsoe/Evans unit has been completely dominant so far.
  • Randy Foye. Prior to Game 3 we discussed the importance to the Clippers of finding a third scorer. Randy Foye proved to be that guy on Saturday. He hit four of his five three pointers, including the tying basket with three minutes left. Interestingly, with Butler playing and Nick Young available as well, Vinny Del Negro played Foye at the small forward for the final 8 minutes of the game. Whether the Grizzlies forgot about Gay or Foye shut him down is a matter of debate, but until the final seconds (when Kenyon Martin was on Gay, as it happens) Gay managed just one free throw while Foye was defending him. Foye's challenge on Gay's final shot forced him to double clutch and may very well have preserved the win for the Clippers. It's strange that Foye actually defended Gay more in Game 3 than he did in Game 2 when Butler was not available -- but then again, no one else was available to play shooting guard down the stretch in Game 2, so Foye and Bobby Simmons were on the floor together at the end. Foye played 36 minutes on Saturday, more than Blake Griffin, and second only to Chris Paul on the team.
  • Griffin. Blake Griffin struggled mightily on Saturday. It was his worst game in a long time, frankly. For the audience on ESPN, which joined the game in progress AFTER Griffin had already scored 8 points, it was particularly ugly. The rest of the game, Griffin scored a total of nine points -- on four dunks and one free throw in six tries. For the game, he had more turnovers (5), fouls (5) and missed free throws (6) than he did rebounds (4). The Clippers are fortunate to have gotten a win in a game in which Griffin was so mediocre. They'll need more from him tonight.
  • Turnovers. Turnovers continue to be a problem, and the Clippers should be happy to be up in this series while averaging almost 19 giveaways a game. Strangely a large number of them continue to be more or less unforced errors -- Kenyon Martin slipped and fell, Griffin dribbled the ball away more than once, Nick Young also just mishandled. The Grizzlies take the ball away plenty -- there's really no reason to give it to them.
  • Mayo and Paul. I happened to watch both the ESPN telecast and the one on Fox Sports. If you were watching Ralph and Mike, you probably missed a play in the fourth quarter where O.J. Mayo gave Chris Paul a cheap shot. Late in the first half, after Paul broke up a fast break, Mayo barreled into Paul in the scramble for the loose ball (on a play that should definitely have been called a foul on Mayo). As they were getting untangled, Mayo was the first to get up -- and sunk his knee directly into Paul's groin as he was doing so. As you might expect, Paul was temporarily disabled and the Clippers had to call a timeout. ESPN showed a replay of the incident, Fox did not. There's no way it was anything other than intentional on Mayo's part -- he knew Paul was there, how could he not?These two have been going at each other since Game 2 -- and I'd say the battle has escalated at this point.
  • Game 3. In playoff series tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 goes on to win the series 76 percent of the time. Obviously that bodes well for the Clippers. But the simple fact is that with a win tonight, the Grizzlies can recapture home court advantage and make this a best of three with two of the last three in Memphis. So the Game 3 win was huge, but only if they follow it up with a win tonight.
  • NBA Playoffs. The Clippers and Grizzlies have alternated wins so far, no team having won consecutive games. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the NBA playoffs. All four East series are 3-1, with the leading team have won three straight at some point. In the West, Oklahoma City won four straight against Dallas and San Antonio is up 3-0 on Utah looking to complete the sweep tonight. The Lakers and Denver is the only series other than Clips-Grizz where a team hasn't won 3 in a row, and even there the Lakers are up 3-1. The Clippers need to get two in a row tonight and end this alternating thing. As it happens, going back to Game 5 of the first round against Denver in 2006, the Clippers have alternated wins and losses in their last 11 playoff games.
  • Get the Grizzlies perspective at Straight Outta Vancouver.