Who: Memphis Grizzlies
at Los Angeles Clippers
When: May 5, 2012 – 3:30 PM (CST)
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Series: Tied 1-1
Memphis redeemed themselves after their epic collapse in Game 1. In a surprise move, the Grizzlies did not shy away from what happened in the previous game. Instead, they put it up on the jumbotron for all to see: Last few seconds of a one-point game….Rudy takes the shot….and misses. This bit of reverse psychology not only served the team well, but the fans too, it would seem. Rather than hiding from their failure, they put it out there for everyone to see — and thus, they owned it.
Los Angeles certainly did not rest on their laurels, doing everything in their power to steal yet another rare win in the FedEx Forum on Wednesday night, only to come up just short. The Grizzlies were able to make the Clippers play “their game” this time around, which resulted in the visitors coming up on the wrong side of the battles for rebounds, turnovers, and free throws. Perhaps most importantly, they kept guys like Nick Young in check after seeing him go crazy in the first meeting.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Paul
The Grizzlies seemed to grasp the best way to defeat this Clippers team in Game 2 — and it all starts with how you choose to approach the issue of CP3. Much like what the Spurs always tried to do when playing against the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns, you have to make the decision that you will let Paul get his points — but limit his ability to distribute and get everyone else involved. The end result of this is that Paul led all scorers with 29 points, but the Clippers lost the game, as only Blake Griffin managed to be marginally effective amongst his teammates. The Grizzlies would be wise to continue to follow this blueprint for the rest of the series, as it takes less pressure off of Conley on defense, which should allow him flourish on the offensive end, as evidenced by his 19 points and 12 free throw attempts in Game 2.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Shooting Guards: Tony Allen vs Randy Foye
Randy Foye is probably going to have poor dreams about the #9 for the next few weeks, no matter how this series turns out. Tony Allen has managed to make Foye a non-factor thru the first two games so far. It calls to mind the playoff series that the Grizzlies had against the Phoenix Suns when Shane Battier found himself guarded by Shawn Marion. When you have a dedicated, hard-nosed defender on you, it makes getting those easy, garbage buckets nearly impossible. That’s what TA has done to Foye thus far. Don’t be surprised if Foye starts losing playing time to guys like Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe if he remains ineffective.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Bobby Simmons
Bobby Simmons played well in his first start of the season, but just couldn’t do enough to make a true difference. Rudy Gay quickly shook off whatever effect the end of Game 1 might have had on him and responded with a superb effort on Wednesday night. The Clippers only have one player on their roster who was marginally capable of slowing #22 down, and he now has a broken hand, so this positional matchup could prove to be a key throughout the rest of the series, as the teams are fairly evenly matched everywhere else.
Power Forwards: Zach Randolph vs Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin played much better in Game 2 after the rude awakening to the postseason that he received for most of Game 1. However, he still struggled with foul issues, which will be very important to watch in tonight’s game. Griffin doesn’t get much of a break no matter whom he faces either, as Speights and Gasol are both accomplished offensive players, too. Z-Bo is beginning to round into shape finally, as evidenced by his 15 and 8 line in the last game. Like Griffin, he had some foul trouble to work through though, which signals that he’s playing defense with his hands instead of his feet at this point. He’ll need to get more agile and mobile if the Grizzlies hope to keep the high-flying Griffin from going off in Game 3.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Centers: Marc Gasol vs DeAndre Jordan
Marc Gasol did not have a stellar game on Wednesday night. Truth be told, he did not even have a good game. Yet, he still managed to do enough on offense to pull DeAndre Jordan out of the middle of the paint, which allowed more freedom for slashers to get to the basket and for others to grab rebounds. On defense, Gasol simply keeps a body on Jordan, which doesn’t give him the freedom to catch all of those lobs that CP3 loves throwing his way. Both of these players have been reduced to their pre-draft evaluations: one is a skilled, polished player, while the other is a raw athletic specimen. It will be interesting to see if Jordan can figure out how to become more effective in this series.
Benches: Memphis vs Los Angeles
I said at the beginning of the series that the one place that I felt that Memphis had a decided advantage was where bench play was concerned. So far, they haven’t disappointed, as O.J. Mayo and Marreese Speights have continued to be consistent scoring options capable of playing decent defense for the Grizzlies, while the Clippers bench seems to be composed of one-dimensional players for the most part, outside of Eric Bledsoe, who only played 6 minutes in Game 2. Nick Young is their biggest threat off the bench, but other than his outside shooting, he hasn’t given L.A. much of a spark so far. The hero of Game 1 — Reggie Evans — was a virtual non-factor in Game 2, recording 1 rebound and 1 turnover in over 15 minutes of play. The Clippers will need more from their assorted role players, as the Grizzlies have shortened their rotation and will look to ride their top players as much as possible.