Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers
When: Thursday, April 25th, 8:30PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Series Standing: Clippers lead 2-0
Media: TNT, FOX Sports TN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Opposing Views: ClipperBlog, ESPNLA- Clippers
For those looking for the traditional player by player breakdown, we have a more detailed than usual blog for the entire series here.
Memphis went into the lion den and got eaten up in Game 1. In Game 2 they showed a better effort but fell short not because of a missed call or two, which there were, but because the Grizzlies missed 11 free throws and Tayshaun Prince missed 8 of 10 shots. The margin of error for the Grizzlies to win on the road is very slim. Now the Grizzlies return home but the Clippers have gone 2-0 in Memphis this season so the team can’t relax. Mike Conley (20.0 points, 7 assists per game in the series) stepped up to match Chris Paul (23.5 points, 8 assists) punch for punch. It was Paul who had the ball in the final seconds to win game 2 but, as 3 SOB has been saying, Conley shouldn’t be expected to win the battle with Chris Paul but he has to make it competitive. Gasol (16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists) has outplayed his counter-part but not enough to counteract the negatives from the team. The negatives have been Tayshaun Prince (4.0 points on 20% shooing) and the bench (11 points failing to make an appearance in game 2 after scoring 40 in game 1). Prince and the bench have to become factors again for the Grizzlies to have a chance in the series.
Los Angeles comes to town with confidence knowing they are 4-2 in FedEx Forum over the last 12 months and are up 2-0 in the series. The Clippers do have to guard against over-confidence however but with a veteran team like LA has that should be a lesson learned years ago. Chris Paul has been incredible. Blake Griffin has the edge over Randolph thanks in no small part to some questionable calls and their bench has proven it deserves mention as the best in the league. However Caron Butler (11 points on 66.7% FG shooting) has been the one player to step up the most in the series. Instead of a liability he has been an asset in the first two games. It’s never easy to win on the road but the Clippers are 4-2 in Memphis since last year’s playoff battle initiated by their dramatic comeback in game 1 last season. Jamal Crawford (14.0 points) has been on fire in the first half of both games but was cooled in the 2nd half (more on that later). The Clippers simply need to remain focused, follow their leader and rely on their bench to handle their opposition or tire the Grizzlies starters. That recipe has the Clippers in a dominating position in the series.
–Mike Conley and Chris Paul have been like two kids on the first days of school. Paul pushed Conley in Game 1 and Mike retreated. Game 2 Conley stood his ground. Game 3 will likely determine if Paul is forced to respect Conley or just shoves him back harder. Conley has been known to have confidence issues in the past but has emerged this year as a legitimate threat, usually the team’s biggest threat, at the end of games. This game will be an ultimate test of his confidence and maturity. Paul is clearly the best PG in the league but if Conley continues to hold his own against him then the team will have a true leader at the point. If he breaks down mentally under the pressure the team will never reach the heights hoped for by their fans. This battle could well determine the Grizzlies future over the next 3-4 years. It is that important.
– What has happened to the Grizzlies bench? At the start of the season the bench was supposed to be improved. Gutted and rebuilt at the end of January, it was still supposed to be better than last year come the playoffs. The bench had a strong game and held their own in game 1 scoring 4o points but that dropped to 11 in game 2. Not coincidently game 2 was competitive while game 1 was not. The Grizzlies bench needs to step up and answer the bell in game 3 for the Grizzlies even if that means not putting more than 2 or 3 bench players at a time into the game mixed with starters. Arthur, Bayless and Davis in particular need to step up to the plate in game 3.
– Could a change in the starting lineup be ahead? Tony Allen was sensational in game 2 but he is needed more to defend Jamal Crawford than Chauncey Billups. Starting Bayless would give the Grizzlies a more balanced attack among the starting five and allow Hollins to use Allen as a situational defender on Crawford for the first three-quarters and still be fresh to handle Paul in the 4th. No one is mentioning it officially but it has to have been discussed behind closed doors. Hollins has a reputation as a stubborn coach but he also has a reputation as a winner and clearly the team is struggling to win against the Clippers. Something needs to be done before the season is over.
– Ed Davis has played 8 MPG in the series. Why has to be the question since he led the team in rebounding in game 1 and has been the most statistically valuable player over the season for the Grizzlies. Davis doesn’t have the range of Arthur, who played well down the stretch for the Grizzlies in game 2, but he is a far better rebounder and shot-blocker. Many people have suggested, ourselves included, that Davis is the future at PF for the Grizzlies. Now would be a good time to see if that suggestion has merits.
– Zach Randolph has been slightly outplayed by Blake Griffin. Not by a lot but enough to tilt that battle toward the Clippers. In game 3 Randolph needs to find a way to have a greater impact on the game. Defense hasn’t been the issue as much as people claim since Griffin is shooting only 44% in the series. Still Randolph averaging 13 ppg and 6 RPG isn’t good enough. Father Time is catching up to Randolph but he Randolph began the season as an all-star. He needs to return to that level of production back at home.
Some Quick Final Musings:
– Congratulations to Marc Gasol being named Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA. It is the first time that Grizzlies player has won a league-wide honor if this magnitude. Now would be a great time to show the world why you won the award and destroy anyone who enters the paint tonight.
– Tony Allen finished 5th in voting and was the highest among guards implying that the Grizzlies could have two players make 1st team All-NBA Defensive players this year. Another first for the franchise.
– Keyon Dooling appeared to hurt his back in Game 2 after crashing to the floor on a drive. The team didn’t miss him that much but he will still be needed to handle the ball for 8-10 minutes a night in the series or Tony Wroten, a 19-year-old rookie, could be called on. Against Eric Bledsoe that is a bit scary for most Grizzlies fans.
– The Grizzlies have never won a series after losing the first two games. What’s even scarier is the Grizzlies have never won a single game in a series where they have lost the first two games! The Grizzlies have never had a 2-0 lead in their favor in a playoff series.
– The Grindhouse will be waiving their yellow “I Believe” towels tonight. The fans will be ready to explode for the team but the team has to start off strong to get the crowd into the game.