Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers
When: May 9, 2012 – 830 PM (CST)
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Series: Memphis (1-3), Los Angeles (3-1)
Memphis managed to fight and claw their way into overtime against the Clippers in game 4 but didn’t have enough left in the tank to finish the job. Fatigue may be playing a role in the Grizzlies post-season as the team has looked lethargic and unable to muster the consistent effort that was the calling card of last season’s playoff run. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and O J Mayo have all seen a sharp drop in their play from the regular season Rudy Gay’s off-shooting night overshadowed a strong effort and only Mike Conley has seemed to have his complete game working despite matching up against one of the best PGs in the league. The team’s three losses have been by a combined 6 points showing how really close the team has been but in the end they simply haven’t been able to close the deal. Tonight’s game will require a complete effort from everyone to extend the series another game.
Los Angeles feels confident that they can wrap up the series in Memphis. The Clippers actually trailed by 27 points in the 4th quarter of game one but has been on fire ever since. The team is shooting way above their season average shooting the ball and has been getting great play from their reserves, especially Reggie Evans and Nick Young. The Clippers are still led by their superstars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul who are terrorizing the Grizzlies inside and out. Caron Butler’s return has provided a much improved defensive effort despite his broken hand. The Clippers have been clicking in all phases of their game. If they can cut down their turnovers and improve their free throw shooting the team will be difficult to defeat. However, the Clippers must guard against overconfidence. While appearing to have a dominating lead, the series it is not over yet. If the Clippers continue to hit their shots and play great defense then even if they lose this game they have the advantage.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Paul
Basketball is still a team game but at times in Game 4 it appeared two be a two-man show as Mike Conley (25 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) and Chris Paul (27 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists) had an epic battle at the point. Conley clearly played his best game in the playoffs as he refused to back down to Chris Paul. The question is can he repeat the effort in game 5? Paul was sensational but no more than he ever is and his 10-22 shooting can clearly be improved on. Conley is growing up in front of the nation’s eyes but he is still not at Paul’s level on a nightly basis.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Shooting Guards: Tony Allen vs Randy Foye
Tony Allen didn’t play in the 4th quarter of Game 3. He sat for most of the 4th quarter of Game 4 but was instrumental defensively in forcing OT. Allen once again missed a lay up late in the 4th quarter that could have won the game in regulation. Foye struggled once again with his shot as he only scored three points. Foye has been the only truly inconsistent player for the Clippers in this series. The Clippers count on him for perimeter shooting to open up the inside Griffin and Jordan. His lack of production hasn’t hurt the Clippers paint production yet but could be a problem if it continues.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Caron Butler
Caron Butler surprised just about everyone by starting Game 3. In Game 4 he found his shooting touch as well hitting 50% of his attempts and scoring 14 points but Butler isn’t counted on for scoring. His job is to make Rudy Gay work as hard as possible to score. He has been very successful doing that. The only game the Grizzlies have won in the series was the game he didn’t play. Rudy Gay has elevated his scoring in the playoffs but not his efficiency hitting only 42% of his attempts and only 28% from beyond the arc. Memphis needs Rudy to not only shoot but score to win the series. Gay has the advantage but will it be large enough to make a difference in the game?
Power Forwards: Zach Randolph vs Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph continue to wage their own private war in this series. The pounding from both sides has led to tempers flaring. The battle got the best of Randolph in Game 4 as an ill-timed bump cost him a technical foul and the Grizzlies a much-needed point. Griffin has dominated the paint against Randolph hitting 58% of his FG attempts while Randolph has struggled on both ends. Memphis needs more from Randolph in Game 5. The injured knee is no longer an excuse. He must hit the offensive boards and cut down on Griffin’s easy looks for the Grizzlies to regain momentum. One has to wonder if he has it in him this year.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Centers: Marc Gasol vs DeAndre Jordan
Marc Gasol is disappearing in the playoffs just when the Grizzlies need him to step up. Last season’s surprise hero has not been a factor in the 2nd half of any game so far and seems lost at times. Is it fatigue after the heavy minutes he’s played this season or just nerves is unknown but Gasol, like so many other Grizzlies stars, has not been the impact player expected in the series. DeAndre Jordan has not been the reason however. Jordan has disappeared as well and has seen his minutes consistently decline in the series. Jordan’s range has shrunk to the point that anything outside of a dunk is considered a miss. His defense has been shaky and his defense has not been the factor one would expect. What should have been a major matchup has been relegated to something far less by both players ineffectiveness.
Benches: Memphis vs Los Angeles
The Grizzlies bench came alive in Game 4 offensively but the Clippers 2nd team continues to play phenomenal defense anyway. Reggie Evans and Eric Bledsoe have impacted the game both on the defensive end but it was two big rebounds off of missed free throws that made the largest impact in Game 4. Memphis needs a hot shooting night by O J Mayo who has been far more effective in Memphis than on the road this season. The Grizzlies also need Maurice Speights to play better defense while continuing to hit the offensive boards and hitting the 10-15 foot jumper. The Grizzlies bench has been a spark plug this season and the team will need another big effort tonight to get the win.
Advantage: Los Angeles