Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers
When: Saturday, April 13th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (54-25), Los Angeles (53-26)
Media: NBAtv, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss at: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis engages in what very well may be a postseason preview tonight as the Clippers come to town. This game should get very interesting, as these two teams have been spending the past month or so jockeying among themselves for playoff positioning and that coveted home-court advantage for their likely first round matchup. Last night in Houston, the Grizzlies got their first win in the city since Pau Gasol was dressed in Beale Street Blue. It was a win that was as ugly as they come, with brutal offensive execution in the fourth quarter, but it warrants mention that they held a high powered Rockets team, the same that lit the Grizz up for 121 points in December, to a mere 78 on the night. A strong question to consider tonight is do the Grizzlies want to show all their cards in how they’re going to play the Clips, or do they play this one conservative and leave the rest to the imagination? I can’t imagine them taking their foot off the gas at this point though, and last night’s brawl of a game indicated nothing short of a playoff feel.
Los Angeles spent yesterday evening in another arena as well, as they also squeaked out a close one against the soon to be Pelicans. With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back, the burning question of the trade-off between fighting to potentially have an extra game in front of your own fans versus ensuring your squad as close to optimal rest and freshness for the “third half” of the season is thrust to the forefront, and lying on either side of the fence is a right and a wrong answer. Like I said for the Grizzlies, though, I cannot imagine the Clippers letting up at this point… and it’s not like there’s a shortage of bad blood between these two teams.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Chris Paul:
Here’s a bit of trivia. Per the Wages of Wins formula, CP3 not surprisingly leads all point guards in Wins Produced. Who is second on that list? If you guessed Mike Conley, you’d be right! Credit Chip on that sweet find. Anyways, the last time these two win producing guards squared off, they both flexed their muscles and put on a show. In about 40 minutes each, Conley had himself a line of 17 points, 11 assists, and 2 threes, while Paul put up 24 on the scoreboard, with 9 assists, 2 steals, and 9-9 from the stripe.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Tony Allen vs Willie Green:
Allen certainly going to have his focus diverted from Green quite a bit, as he will get plenty of time to matchup with Jamal Crawford off the bench, and will likely see some time on Paul, with Conley sliding over to guard the two. Regardless, Green is not to be viewed as too much of a threat as long as he is not left out in the open the way he was against Minnesota and Phoenix earlier in the week, where he went off for 15 in each of those games.
Tayshaun Prince vs Caron Butler:
Once an all-around threat, nowadays Butler is more of a jump shooter than anything else, but is still dangerous in his own right. He’s averaging 10.5 points per game, his lowest since his sophomore campaign. Speaking of scoring, or lack there of, Prince has not scored more than 12 points in a game since the last time he played the Clippers, when Matt Barnes simply refused to guard him going to his right hand. Will the Clippers ignore Prince so flagrantly again?
Zach Randolph vs Blake Griffin:
Zbo and Blake. Here’s a great matchup of bumpin’, scratchin’, clawin’, and grindin’. It’s always a dogfight in the paint between the two of them. Randolph may not be a prolific defender, but don’t underestimate the impact of his physical play and battling for position all night. Randolph’s value in this one will not come from outplaying Griffin per se, but if he can impose enough of his will on him on the ground, and tire him out enough to prevent him from playing above the rim the way he likes, I’ll call it a job well done.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Marc Gasol vs DeAndre Jordan:
Much ado has been made over DeAndre’s pitiful .391 free throw percentage, and rightfully so, but this is mitigated if he does not go to the line all that often. Otherwise, he’s a pretty efficient scorer if played around the basket. Similarly on the defensive end, he’s not a guy you want wandering to far from the paint. Marc playing the elbow the way he has been will be crucial not only for his benefit but for the rest of the team. If he can hit a few jumpers (can you call them that if you hardly leave the ground?) early and lure DeAndre out of his comfort zone, it stands to benefit Conley’s chances of getting to the rim without the ball being sent into the stands.
This is where the matchups begin to go south for the good guys, because the Clips have a very deep and very veteran bench. For starters, the guard tandem of Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe is tailor made to give the Grizzlies their share of headaches, as Crawford’s relentless scoring ability and Bledsoe’s relentlessness getting after the ball have both burned the Grizz in the past. Add forwards Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes to the mix, who have both played and succeeded in big moments and you’ve got some nice depth on the table. The Grizzlies’ bench, outside of Jerryd Bayless, is a roller coaster that has had more valleys than peaks at this point, but can be effective in stretches.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Opposing Views: Clipper Blog