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NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 2 Clippers-Grizzlies preview: Holding home court

The Clippers won Game 1 in convincing fashion, but it's a seven game series. Memphis just needs one win in L.A. to steal home court advantage, so the Clippers have to win this one to keep them Grizzlies down.

Harry How
2013 NBA Playoffs - First Round

Game 2 - April 22nd, 2013, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWW 1330 AM
Buy Clippers Tickets
Series Schedule
Clippers lead series 1-0
Game 1 - Sat April 20 in Los Angeles, Clippers 112, Grizzlies 91
Game 2 - Mon April 22, 7:30 p.m., Los Angeles, STAPLES Center
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)

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:

Things could not have gone much better for the Clippers in Game 1 of the series. They dominated the rebounding battle, scored at will against the Grizzlies vaunted defense, led the entire way, and closed the game on a 35-15 run. Even the things that went wrong for the Clippers went right: Blake Griffin may have fouled out, but if Griffin and Zach Randolph are going to cancel each other out with foul trouble and a tendency towards MMA over basketball, it hurts the Grizzlies much more than it hurts the Clippers. The Clippers have lots of other elite scorers on their team -- the Grizzlies, not so much. But in the playoffs, one win is meaningless without three others, and Memphis' goal on their trip to L.A. was to win one game. They can still achieve that goal tonight, in which case the Clippers Game 1 victory will become a distant memory as the scene shifts to Memphis. If the Clippers can bottle Game 1, they should. The effort to protect their defensive glass is the first thing they'll want to repeat. They probably won't hold Memphis to four offensive rebounds again, but they can continue to work hard and box out, and if they can limit the Grizzlies second chances it will once again give them a great chance to win. On the other end, it all starts with Chris Paul and the other perimeter scorers for the Clippers. If Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and Lamar Odom and the other bigs can continue to limit Randolph and Marc Gasol they will have done their job, because if this series becomes a contest between the perimeter players, it's no contest.

The Antagonist:

The Grizzlies do two things at an elite level in the NBA -- rebound and play defense. They were crushed on the boards in Game 1 and allowed the Clippers to score almost at will. To give you an idea of how bad it was, the Grizz averaged 3.6 more rebounds per game than their opponents during the regular season (second in the league), allowed .435 shooting from the field (third) and allowed an average of 89.3 points per game (first). Those numbers were -24, .554 and 112 in Game 1. Memphis will do better than that the rest of the series -- but it may not matter. The Clippers are clearly not the least bit intimidated by the Grizzlies, and it's looking more and more like L.A. just has their number. Jerryd Bayless led the Grizzlies in scoring in Game 1 -- which is all well and good, but when Bayless is in the game, Tony Allen probably isn't. The bottom line is that is forced to rely on Bayless to carry the scoring load as they were in Game 1 they will be in big trouble. The Grizzlies have got to figure out how to get Randolph and Gasol some space to operate and hope they can get onto the offensive glass or this series will not last long.

The Subplots

  • Series Preview. Be sure to check out the Series Preview; all the good stuff in there is still plenty applicable.
  • Scoring Options. The Grizzlies have one player on their roster -- that's one, as in less than two -- who has averaged more than 15 points per game for an NBA season. That one player is Zach Randolph. The Clippers have six players who have averaged at least 20 points per game for an NBA season, not to mention Lamar Odom who has averaged over 17. Now, I'll allow that Grant Hill is not going to be a primary scoring option for the Clippers this series and that Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler and Odom are beyond their scoring primes, but the simple fact is that all these guys are scorers and can score in bunches if they need to. So while it may seem at first that a hyper-physical battle between Randolph and Griffin on the block may seem to fit the Grizzlies style, if foul trouble or exhaustion takes those two guys out of the game, it definitely hurts Memphis more than it hurts L.A.
  • Grizzly Killer. What is it about Eric Bledsoe and the Grizzlies? I think Bledsoe is great and a real difference-maker for the Clippers against any team, but he seems to torment the Grizzlies in particular, though I'm not sure why that should necessarily be so. The Clippers have now won five straight games over the Grizzlies when Bledsoe has played going back to Game 7 last year. Bledsoe harasses Mike Conley relentlessly and seems immune to Memphis' pressure defense on the other end. Bledsoe played all of the decisive fourth quarter Saturday night and finished the game 7-7 -- which may seem like an outlier at first, until you realize that five of those came within two feet of the basket.
  • Contingency plans. A seven game series involves more adjustments than the NBA regular season. Facing the same team night after night -- especially when it's the same team you played in the prior postseason -- breeds a lot of familiarity. The Grizzlies have a really good Plan A -- they want to play high-low with Gasol and Randolph on offense and they expect to lock you down on defense. They're never going to be a great offensive team, but if the defense is dialed in they can still outscore you. The problem is, the Grizzlies don't have much in the way of a Plan B. Take Bayless for instance. He's shown over the years and again this season that he's ineffective as a point guard. The Grizzlies had to coax Keyon Dooling out of retirement with less than two weeks remaining in the season because they didn't have a viable backup for Conley. Bayless has scored well for Memphis, but if he's in, then defensive specialist Tony Allen is out or he's forced to move to the three. And for each of those moves, the Clippers have a ready and effective counter. If Memphis plays Bayless and sits Allen, it's an invitation to Paul and Jamal Crawford to score almost at will against smaller, poorer perimeter defenders. When Memphis played Bayless and Allen together on the wings in the fourth quarter Saturday, Vinny Del Negro unleashed a three guard lineup of Paul, Bledsoe and Billups that broke the game wide open. The Clippers are deeper and more versatile -- if Plan A doesn't work for Memphis, their contingency plans are certainly not going to work.
  • Officiating. There were 11 personal fouls called on Griffin and Randolph during Saturday's game: at least seven of those came against each other, including one double foul. To my Clipper-goggle vision, it seemed that almost all of those were on contact initiated by Randolph -- so I personally didn't think the refs were doing the Clippers any particular favors. Nor did they seem to be calling the game particularly close -- the hand-to-hand combat occurring between Griffin and Randolph is more or less forcing calls, and in fact on at least two occasions Griffin and Randolph were on the ground behind the play without a whistle sounding. If Randolph wants to mix it up, Griffin is more than willing -- but it seems like the officials are not going to let this devolve into a street fight, and as we've pointed out, if Griffin and Randolph end up canceling each other out, it favors L.A.
  • Conley. I like Mike Conley -- a lot. He's been terrific for Memphis this season and is their second leading scorer, averaging a career high 14.6 with a career high .549 true shooting percentage. But he has been ineffective against the Clippers since last year's postseason. In 11 games dating back to Game 2 in 2012, Conley has made more than half his field goal attempts just once -- in Game 4 last year. Foul trouble on Saturday limited him to just 28 minutes. The Grizzlies need Conley to be good to have a chance in this series -- in fact, they probably need him to be great -- but it just isn't happening. A big portion of the credit goes to Bledsoe for his defense on Conley.
  • Health. We pointed it out in the series preview but it really stood out in Game 1; Paul was hurting in the Grizzlies series last season and he's healthy this year, and it makes a huge difference. With all of his quickness at his disposal, Memphis has no answer for Paul. They desperately tried to force him left where he is less effective throughout Game 1, but Paul continually found ways to get back to the right. His seven points to open the third quarter and dagger three in the fourth seemed to say "Forget it Grizz, it's not happening." Lionel Hollins didn't try Allen on Paul much in Game 1 -- partly because Allen only played 17 minutes in deference to Bayless. Will that change in Game 2? Even if it does, it probably won't matter.
  • 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.