Which is more demoralizing? To lose by 20 points, or to be tied in the final seconds and lose at the buzzer? We don't have to guess about the answer -- we can just ask the members of the Memphis Grizzlies, since they've experienced both in falling into an 0-2 hole in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Unlike the first game, the Clippers didn't lead from wire-to-wire in this one. In fact, the Grizzlies came out smoking hot in the first quarter, made 8-10 to start the game, and took an early lead. But even with their hot start, the Clippers fought back to tie the game at 26 at the end of the period. Moreover, the pace of the game to that point seemed to favor the Clippers. Yes, the Grizzlies were making shots, but did they really want to run with the Clippers?
From the second quarter forward, the Clippers seemed to be more or less in control of the game. They'd stretch the lead out to six or eight, but the Grizzlies would reel them back. Still, it seemed as if the Clippers were in charge the entire second half, even stretching the lead to 12 early in the fourth quarter, so it was definitely nervous time when the Grizzlies tied the game on a Darrell Arthur three point play with 97 seconds remaining. The worst case scenario for the Clippers pretty much would have been to dominate Game 1, but let the Grizzlies steal Game 2 -- the exact scenario that seemed to be playing out.
Enter Chris Paul.
The Clippers second unit had been splendid to open the fourth, stretching the team's four point lead out to a dozen with eight straight. Unfortunately, they went cold at that point. Tony Allen clamped down on Jamal Crawford, the rest of the reserves struggled to get clean looks, and all told the Clippers missed eight of nine shots over the next six minutes, a drought that continued even after Paul and Blake Griffin had re-entered the contest.
Fortunately, after missing his first two shots after coming back in, Paul made four of his last five to end the game, including the game winner which went through the net with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. The final shot was anything but easy. The Grizzlies assigned Tony Allen to ball for the final few possessions, and Allen was harassing Paul throughout his move. But as he does so well, Paul held Allen off, elevated, and freed his right hand for a floating 10 foot bank shot. Ball game.
The Grizzlies are surely devastated at this point, wondering what they have to do to overcome their nemesis. I pointed out in the preview that the Grizzlies best chance in this series is to stick with their game plan, as none of the contingencies seem to favor them, and that's exactly what Coach Lionel Hollins did tonight. Mike Conley played 44 minutes, Marc Gasol almost as many, resting 49 and 75 seconds respectively in the second half. Of the Memphis starters, only Zach Randolph played fewer than 38 minutes, and he only got some rest because of foul trouble. In Game 1 Tony Allen played 25 minutes compared to 30 for Jerryd Bayless. In Game 2, it was Allen 39 and Bayless just nine. Of course, barring fatigue becoming a major factor, that's more or less the only option Hollins has. If Memphis is counting on Bayless and Keyon Dooling to be major factors, the series is already over.
For the Clippers, Griffin and Crawford carried them early and Paul closed the deal. Griffin had 13 first quarter points, scoring in a variety of ways. Crawford came in and made his first six shots. They finished with 21 and 15 respectively to join Paul, with his team high 24, as the only Clippers in double figures. Paul and Griffin posted strangely complementary stats as the sometimes do -- Griffin finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists while Paul had 24 points, nine assists and four rebounds.
The Clippers certainly didn't dominate the rebounding battle the way they did in Game 1, but they did win the battle of the glass, and against a great rebounding team like the Grizzlies that's a major accomplishment in and of itself. After grabbing just four offensive rebounds in the first game, the Grizzlies managed just eight in this one -- better, but still far below their season average.
Where Memphis did improve significantly this game was in their starting backcourt. Conley and Allen, hampered with foul trouble on Saturday, were limited in both playing time and effectiveness in Game 1, but in Game 2 Conley stepped up with 28 points and nine assists while Allen had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Conley's points and both Allen's points and rebounds were all career playoff highs. That's a tough loss to take, when the members of your starting backcourt post career highs and you still lose.
In the big picture, the Clippers have now won six of the last seven meetings with the Grizzlies, including three straight in Memphis, and they need just two more wins in the next five to defeat the Grizzlies for the second year in a row. After winning their final seven regular season games, they're now on a nine game winning streak, which actually ranks as the third longest in franchise history and second longest in Clippers history. That is to say, the two longest winning streaks in Clippers history have each occurred this season, and one of them is active.
Game 3 will take place on Thursday in Memphis where the Clippers clearly have plenty of confidence. That game becomes a must win for the Grizzlies since no team has ever come back from a 3-0 playoff deficit. Chris Paul dashed the Grizzlies hopes of winning Game 2 -- it's time to do the same to their hopes of winning the series.
For the Memphis perspective visit Grizzly Bear Blues.
|Final - 4.22.2013||1||2||3||4||Total|
|Los Angeles Clippers||26||24||25||18||93|