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Film Room: Why Pacing Matters

The Clippers beat the Grizzlies 94-92 despite playing a Memphis style game. The Clippers changed the pace just enough to win.

Another ugly Clipper vs. Memphis game - shocker. Clippers fans may dislike the Warriors the most, but the Grizzlies are a very close second, and with good reasoning. Seemingly every single game against the Grizzlies is a physical, grind-it-out game. In the Clippers vs. Grizzlies head-to-head history, they have played a total of 77 games. In those games, the Clippers have won 39 to the Grizzlies 38. On average, the Clippers score 96.8 points-per-game. The Grizzlies average 96.6. Since Blake Griffin's rookie year the equality continues. The teams have played 32 games since 2010, with the Clippers winning 17 and losing 15. In 32 games, the Clippers outscored the Grizzlies by a total of 24 points - or a little over a half point-per-game. There is little separation between the teams, despite playing contrasting styles. However, each game in recent memory usually favors Memphis's style - a gritty game with a lot of whistle. Credit the Grizzlies for forcing the Clippers to adjust to the slower style. The Grizzlies normally play slow, and against the Clippers they take it to the extreme. On Monday the Grizzlies held the Clippers to 94 points, well under their season average. This edition of film room examines how the Grizzlies play so well against LA and how a short spurt in the third won the game for the Clippers.

A very sloppy Clippers team turned the ball over 12 times in the first half. Part of it was laziness and lack of mental acuteness, but part of it was a strong Grizzlies defense. Also, Lance Stephenson made a few great outlet passes to the Grizzlies in the first half, igniting their fastbreak.

Early in the first, Lance dribbles over the top and locates DeAndre Jordan trailing. You can see the moment Lance realizes he's passing to Jordan. All confidence disappears and basically stops moving. Its reminiscent of checking your fantasy football roster on a bad day - the effort just wasn't worth it. The duality of Lance appears in this play. Good Lance attacks the gap with confidence, sucking the defense in. The initial attack of Good Lance is promising, as those gaps will always exists when he plays with the starters. If Lance's outside shot isn't working, his ability to split the gaps makes him a threat. Lance gets two defenders to collapse on him.

The concept of the pass to Jordan isn't the worst. He's open and upon catching it, Jordan would have set a screen for Chris Paul in a two-on-one situation. Bad Lance questions himself, thinks negatively about his actions and realizes DeAndre really is out of his element that far away from the basket and gives up. Second-guessing and decision hesitation plague the Clippers, especially in late game scenarios. Confidence stems from repetition. Although Doc debatably (hopefully) is experimenting with lineups, the set rotations need to come soon. Players thrive knowing their niche, and all eight new players need role definition,

The Grizzlies aren't great in the fastbreak, but the Clippers recovered well and altered Grizzlies shots during the fastbreak. Even with the blunder by Bad Lance, DJ chases down Tony Allen for a Wilt Chamberlain-esque block. The Clippers held Memphis to a point-per-turnover, with only 9 fastbreak opportunities total. When the game is played so slow, chances are fewer. By turning the ball over so often, the Clippers gifted extra opportunities to a team that struggles to score.

A few minutes later, the Good Grizzlies Defense appear and Bad Lance reappears. The Grizzlies wonderfully ICE the screen-and-roll and force Jordan to set a ball-screen on the baseline side, which gives Lance little room. Operating in such a tight space, Marc Gasol easily contains both Lance and DJ. Baseline dribble drives substantially limit passing lanes of the ball handler. Memphis defenders shade both man and ball, not allowing any passing windows. Lance really has no good options. A pass to Redick in the corner surely would be a turnover. A skip pass to Paul across the middle is risky. Zach Randolph would steal a pass to Griffin. Lance forces an awkward lob to Jordan who can't reach the ball. The pass falls into the hands of Randolph and then the Grizzlies are running. Memphis defenders consistently located themselves perfectly between man and ball, forcing Clippers offensive execution to be perfect. Just because the Grizzlies #lostby50 doesn't mean they play horrendous defense.

The Clippers got lucky on Lance's second turnover. Courtney Lee, a career 38 percent three-point shooter, misses. JJ Redick satisfactorily closes out, but Lee had trouble getting his feet and body underneath him.  Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith repeatedly mentioned the Grizzlies inability to hit open shots throughout the game.  How to stop a fast break is a simple, execute well on offense, and the Clippers did not - partially because of Memphis schemes, and partly because of laziness.

The Grizzlies were great at disrupting Clipper sets and this play at 6:09 remaining in the first is a great example. David Joerger understands J.J. Redicks' significance for the Clippers offense and put Tony ‘FIRST TEAM ALL-DEFENSE' Allen on the shooter. The Griz employed a strategy of "Don't let Redick get loose," and denied passes his way throughout the game. Numerous Clipper sets start with an early pass to Redick, but Allen denies passes at an elite level. This strategy frequently delayed the Clippers offense, taking precious seconds of the shot-clock.

Watch Allen suction-cup to Redick's side after J.J. passes to Blake. The Clippers wanted to get Redick receiving a handoff on the run with Allen trailing. Usually defenders guard a little further back, giving J.J. enough room to get his defender trailing. Here, Allen impedes Redick's pass putting him between himself and the ball. Redick retreats, gets the pass and runs a traditional pick-and-roll with Griffin, which isn't Redick's strength. Redick is great using off-ball motion to create space, but the Grizzlies forced Redick to create with the ball.

Because the play took so long to develop, Courtney Lee recognizes the developing action. Not perceiving Lance's shot as a threat, Lee bolts towards a popping Griffin and intercepts Redick's pass transitioning for the easy layup.

Near the end of the second, the Clippers try to get Chris Paul open with two down-screens into a handoff from Jordan. This actually looks like manipulation to disguise the Clippers' Dribble Drag Pindown play. Blake sets up for a screen for Redick, alas, the play never gets that far. Beno Udrih realizes the ball is coming back to Paul and sticks to his side.

Paul's physicality on perimeter defense is unnatural, but when Paul gets bodied up, occasionally he reacts disproportionately. Paul attempts to sell the foul, slowing himself down. Udrih allows zero space to Paul, squeezes in-between ball-and-man, and doesn't allow the handoff. A frustrated Paul pushes Udrih, drawing an offensive foul.

By denying passes and slowing the game down, the Grizzlies forced the Clippers into predictable actions. In a modern day pace-and-space game, the ball whirls around quickly on offensive sets. The orthodox Grizzlies' approach modifies the timing players and plays accustom to. Halfcourt plays usually taking 5 seconds turned into 9 seconds on Monday. Instead of the game turning into a read and react style, it was a deliberate step-by-step approach.

With 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Clippers broke free from the tyranny of slow-paced oppression. Down 64-60, the Clip Show exploded on a 14-2 run over the next 3 and half minutes.

Following an awkward Jamal Crawford isolation, a pesky Chris Paul hangs around the basket. Zero Clippers attack the offensive boards, and Chris doesn't either, but he hangs around. Although this seems fortuitous, as Zach Randolph tries to corrall the rebound, you can see him look at Paul - comparable to a wide receiver turning his head before catching the ball. Paul's presence coerces Randolph into fumbling the ball and falling over. Once Paul gathers the ball, a retreating Udrih has no shot at stopping a Chris Paul-Josh Smith two-on-one break.

With the shot-clock dwindling down and the Clippers playing small, the Grizzlies post-up the 6' 7'' ex-Clipper Matt Barnes over 6' 4'' Austin Rivers. Any Clipper could have predicted Matt Barnes's move, and Austin Rivers was just as prophetic. Barnes tries a drop step, but doesn't drop anywhere and shoots a contested jumper over Rivers. Josh Smiths grabs the board, throws a great lead pass to Rivers, who attacks the bucket and draws a foul.

Chris Paul methodically approaches each fastbreak. He excels at recognizing when the Clippers have greater numbers, but if the Clippers don't, he will slow down and set up the offense. Austin Rivers attacks with reckless abandon. Austin creates fastbreak chances that Paul doesn't. Austin forces the issue on the defense. Yes, he falls down more than anybody, but he speeds the game. His speed aided the Clippers in getting their biggest lead. Rivers used to be an NBA joke. This year, Rivers' solidified his role on a championship caliber team.

From 3:41 remaining in the third to 11:24 remaining in the fourth, the Clippers played Paul-River-Crawford-Pierce-Smith. Pierce and Smith guarded Randolph and Gasol, which seems like a mismatch defensively. However, this lineup went plus-6 in five minutes of play. The lineup changed the tempo. Instead of matching the Grizzlies slow style, the Clippers played the way they are used to - in the open court.

Here Crawford gets tested, put through a series of screens and handoffs. The final screen Smith hedges enough, forcing Mike Conley to hesitate. Rivers strips Conley during this moment of purgatory and excels the other way passing to a trailing Smith.

Not many matchups in the NBA feature such a profound difference in styles. When the Clippers play the Grizzlies, its almost obvious who will win judging by the style of the game. Monday, the Grizzlies played their style for 44 and half minutes but  the Clippers just needed 3 and half minutes of theirs to win.