Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers
When: Tuesday, April 30th, 9:30PM CST
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, Ca
Series Standing: All Tied 2-2
Media: TNT, Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Opposing Views: ClipperBlog, ESPNLA- Clippers
Memphis took the game to the Clippers and turned the series around. After starting down two games to none, the Grizzlies went back to their form of basketball in games 3 and 4. Memphis pounded the Clippers in the paint and hit the glass on hard both ends of the court. They put big guards on All-Star Chris Paul forcing him out of the play-making role to reveal the Clippers Achilles heal. The Clippers are a poor half court offensive team. Zach Randolph has returned to his all-star level of performance in the last few games and dominated the Clippers inside. Marc Gasol became more aggressive offensively hitting the 10-15 foot shot with amazing accuracy and Tayshaun Prince even turned back the clock in Game 4 to give the Grizzlies a big lift offensively. Coach Lionel Hollins has quieted his critics with excellent decisions on rotations and assignments to frustrate the Clippers on both ends of the court.
Los Angeles suddenly finds themselves in a must win situation. Glad to be out of Memphis, the Clippers return to their home court in LA with players and coaches both questioning what has gone wrong and how to correct the problem. Chris Paul says the team needs more energy. Head Coach Vinnie Del Negro talked about getting the Grizzlies into foul trouble again by being more aggressive. The one saving grace right now for the Clippers is that neither team has won on the road. If the Clippers can hold onto their home court then they will win the series. “That’s why you work so hard for home court,” Billups said. “If we were faced with this situation and had two games in Memphis and one at home, the pressure would be on us, but the pressure is not on us.” That sounds good but if the Clippers can’t stop the bleeding early in Game 5 then the pressure will certainly mount. Right now the Clippers are one heroic shot from Chris Paul from facing elimination.
- Mike Conley was supposed to be a vital offensive scoring option for the Grizzlies. It hasn’t worked out that way exactly. Conley is shooting 39.2% from the floor and 20% from the arc. However, Conley is averaging 9.3 APG and has matched Chris Paul with 1.75 SPG. If Conley rediscovers his shooting touch, especially from the perimeter, then the Clippers will be in big trouble in game 5. Conley has been effective coming off picks to get into the paint, drawing extra defenders and finding the open man when defenses collapse. In the past people questioned Conley’s mental toughness. He may be putting those doubts to rest in this series.
- There have been many aspects of this series that have been scrutinized but the one clear stat has been rebounding. As the battle for the glass has gone so has the game. In Game 1 the Clippers out-rebounded the Grizzlies by 24 boards and won by 21. In game 2 the Clippers won the battle by two rebounds and won by two points. In Games 3 and 4 the Grizzlies dominated the glass by 12 and 17 boards and won the games by 12 and 21 points. How the battle for rebounds goes in game 5 will likely determine the outcome as well. The Grizzlies set a franchise low for rebounds in Game 1 but also set the franchise record for rebounding margin in Game 4.
- The Grizzlies starting 5 has dominated the Clippers starting 5 since the debacle in Game 1. In all three of the succeeding games the Grizzlies starting five players have all had positive +/- ratings while the Clippers starting five have not had a single player with a positive +/- mark. That means every Grizzlies starter has seen the team outscore the Clippers when he was on the court, regardless of who the other players on the court were. The reason is simple. The Grizzlies have shortened their bench to counter the Clippers strength off the bench. That means longer minutes for the Grizzlies starters but the results have spoken for themselves. The Grizzlies bench for the most part has responded well to rotations as four bench players had positive +/- ratings in Game 4.
- The Small Forward position has taken a dramatic turn in performance as well. In Game 1 Caron Butler and Matt Barnes outscored Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter 23-7. In Game four that was reversed as the Grizzlies SFs outscored the Clippers SFs 26-6. If the Grizzlies continue to out-produce their Clippers SFs it will put even more pressure on Paul to make up the difference in scoring or force the Clippers to go to a 3 guard rotation which will make it that much more difficult to keep the Grizzlies off the glass.
- In the final regular season battle between the Clippers and Grizzlies DeAndre Jordan scored 16 points in the first half to help pace the Clippers to the lead. In the four games of the playoffs Jordan has scored a total of 11 points. Jordan shot 64.3% from the field in the regular season but has hit only 41.7% of his FG attempts in the playoffs. And some people complained about Marc Gasol being named defensive player of the year.
Some Final Musings:
- Lionel Hollins and Vinnie Del Negro are both working without contracts for next season. Rumors have swirled from both cities that whoever doesn’t advance may not be employed with their team next season. A playoff series where both opposing coaches are without contracts at the end of the season is extremely rare. The last time this occurred was when Scottie Brooks and the OKC Thunder took on the LA Lakers and Phil Jackson. Both coaches were retained the next season.
- Mike Conley is traveling in rare air. Conley was the first player since John Stockton in 2001 to record at least 10 assists and 3 steals without turning the ball over once. Only 9 players in the last 22 years have exceeded 22 assists in back to back games while turning the ball over two or fewer times. The last to do it was Rajon Rondo. Chris Paul has done that twice.
- The Grizzlies have never been to the playoffs without Lionel Hollins on the coaching staff. He was the assistant coach the first three times the Grizzlies made the playoffs and has been head coach for the last 3 playoff seasons. Hollins is also the only coach to win a series, or a game for that matter, as Head Coach of the Grizzlies.
- The Grizzlies have shown they are not afraid of any team this season with wins over Miami, San Antonio (twice), Oklahoma City (twice), Denver and the Knicks as well as the back to back wins over the Clippers. However, the Grizzlies likely would prefer to avoid a game 7. The Grizzlies last two playoff runs have ended with a loss in Game 7 and the team has never won a Game 7 in franchise history.
For the over-arching matchup analyses, click here.