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Grizzlies Maul Clippers, 107-91

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It was always going to be a tall order to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies on their home court, as they have now won eight in a row this season (and 22 in a row going back to last season) at "The Grindhouse." The Clippers could not get anything going on either offense or defense, and they were quickly overwhelmed by their feisty opponents. Simply put, the Grizzlies were too strong, too decisive, and too skilled for the Clippers to handle. The Clippers must quickly lick their wounds, as their road trip continues in Charlotte tomorrow night.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing the Clippers fairly evenly in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, the Grizzlies seem to have had the Clippers' number since the third game of the 2013 playoffs.  What stands out like a sore thumb is that the Grizzlies keep defeating the Clippers in the exact same way every single time.  They run their offense through Marc Gasol, and the Clippers have not figured out a way to either get the ball out of his hands or make him scramble.  Indeed, he had 30 points (on 13 of 18 shooting) and 12 rebounds.  He was dominant.  When you give Gasol time and space, he will make you pay either through clever playmaking or by taking a quality shot.  Without a doubt, Gasol was the star of the game, and the best player on the court tonight.  It is no coincidence that Gasol did not play in the sole game last season in which the Clippers defeated the pesky Grizzlies.  To be honest, it has been frustrating to watch the Clippers play the Grizzlies the last two seasons, and it is disappointing that Doc Rivers has not figured out a strategy to at least make these games competitive.  Sure, they may be a bad match-up for the Clippers, but these games should be played more tightly.  One must start to wonder if the Grizzlies are in the Clippers' heads.  If this game was the biggest test of the season, then the Clippers failed in spectacular fashion.

The first quarter started out somewhat promising for the Clippers.  Matt Barnes was the hero of the quarter for Los Angeles, scoring nine points and taking it to the hoop.  Blake Griffin contributed seven points in the opening frame, taking advantage of single coverage.  However, the Clippers were unable to get into any sort of offensive groove, and they were not capitalizing on opportunities at the charity stripe.  Their three-ball, a key to the game, was not falling (the Grizzlies' perimeter defense is truly a thing of beauty).  Los Angeles could not slow down Gasol, and DeAndre Jordan did a very poor job of keeping track of him.  Jordan, who leads the league in rebounds, was invisible on the boards as well.  So was Griffin.  Chris Paul, who had been looking for his shot early in recent games, was a non-factor on the offensive end.  Memphis led by five at the quarter.  The Clippers had a chance to cut it to two, but Jamal Crawford went for a circus shot at the buzzer instead of finding Spencer Hawes, who was standing beyond the arc.

The second quarter was, in a word, painful.  Except if you were a fan of the Grizzlies.  Then it was fantastic!  Griffin scored one measly point in the quarter.  Not much can and should be said about this quarter, except that the Clippers were thoroughly outplayed and outclassed by the Grizzlies.  The Clippers could not stop Memphis' dribble penetration, could not shake defenders loose, and could not get that ball through the hoop.  The lone bright spot was Glen Davis, who seemed to be all over the place.  He was taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls, and generally preventing putbacks by taking up space under the basket.  It also felt like there was a foul a minute called on the Clippers.  The Grizzlies led by 13 at intermission.

The Clippers attempted to make a run in the third quarter and managed to cut it to single digits on a handful of occasions.  However, Memphis put the kibosh on the Clippers' plans to mount a comeback and would always push the lead back up to double digits.  Chris Paul was doing Chris Paul things, and he was a true spark for the Clippers. J.J. Redick also started hitting some shots.  However, just when the Clippers cut it to 8 late in the quarter, the Grizzlies went on an 8-0 run, dragging the lead back to 16.  This run was the nail in the coffin for the Clippers.  A major reason why the Clippers could not seem to mount a sustained comeback is that they could not score in the paint.  Nine minutes into the third quarter, the Clippers had 22 points in the paint compared to 40 from the Grizzlies.  They were too reliant on jump shoots, and it did not pay off.  The Grizzlies led by 16 at the end of the third quarter.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies led the Clippers 39-22 in terms of rebounding, 14-6 in second chance points, and were shooting 55% from the field compared to 43% from the Clippers.  With these numbers, it looked highly unlikely that the Clippers could pull off another "Miracle in Memphis."  The only advantage that the Clippers had going into the fourth quarter was in steals (8-3), but the Grizzlies' transition defense was too good, and the Clippers could not capitalize on turnovers.  The three-ball started falling for Memphis too, which added insult to injury.  On the whole, the Clippers did a very poor job of closing out on shooters.  The Grizzlies' lead quickly ballooned to 25 four minutes into the fourth quarter.  The Clippers did go on a 10-0 scoring run to cut Memphis' lead to 15 with four minutes left in the quarter, and Rivers put Paul back in the game during this surge.  However, Gasol quickly put a stop to these shenanigans with a bucket and a stop. Rivers still elected to put Griffin back in the game in an attempt to mount one last stand.  However, it was not to be.  Reggie Bullock and Jared Cunningham entered the game within the final three minutes (Griffin and Paul took a seat), and the white flag was officially waved.

Post-Mortem:

  • Somehow, some way, the Clippers have to figure out a strategy that will allow them to compete with Memphis.  Right?  Surely, they will come up with a plan to stop the Grizzlies, who are not known as the most gifted offensive team.  The Grizzlies look like the Spurs against the Clippers.  If the Clippers' brain trust cannot come up with a new game plan, we should all cross our fingers and hope that the Clippers will not meet Memphis in the post-season this year.  The results will not be pretty. 
  • In order to beat Memphis, Griffin has to be much better offensively.  He was not good tonight.  He finished with 12 points on 5 of 17 shooting and four rebounds.  He did have three assists, but he had four turnovers.  For those not good at math, that is a bad assist to turnover ratio.  He looked shaky and indecisive, turning the ball over on consecutive possessions in the first quarter.  He needs to make decisions more quickly.  He felt like a non-factor in this game, and it is hard to win when one of your marquee players is neutralized.  It sure looks like the Grizzlies are in his head.  Zach Randolph did not have a dominant evening (in some part due to Griffin's defense), but he was a slightly more efficient 5 of 11 from the field, and he finished with eight boards as well.
  • Chris Paul needs to look for his shot early in games.  He reverted back to his pure playmaking persona in this game, and it spelled disaster.  Yes, the perimeter defense of the Grizzlies is wonderful (we could sure use Tony Allen or Courtney Lee), but he needs to be an offensive weapon in order to keep his team in the game.  He finished with 22 points on 7 of 13 shooting, and he was a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe.  However, Paul only had 5 assists.  His relatively low number of assists was a sign that the offense just was not clicking.  He kept Mike Conley somewhat in check (seven points on 2 of 6 shooting), but Conley still had a solid seven assists. 
  • This game was surprisingly free of fireworks, with the exception of Griffin getting a bloody nose in the third quarter.  There were no technical fouls, no double fouls, and no ejections.  It was a pretty tame affair, all things considering.  The Grizzlies are a physical team, but the Clippers could not seem to match their physicality without fouling.
  • Rebounding was one of the subplots in the game preview, and the Clippers did not rise to the occasion.  The Grizzles outrebounded the Clippers by 20 (52-32), and they had 12 offensive rebounds to the Clippers' 5.  These offensive rebounds resulted in too many second chance points.
  • The Grizzlies' defense is simply superb, both in the interior and on the perimeter.  They also seem to have mastered the art of playing both half-court defense and transition defense.  The Clippers had 10 steals, and the Grizzlies turned it over 17 times, but the Clippers only had 13 fast break points.  The Grizzlies took away the Clippers' ability to get out in transition.