Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers
When: May 13, 2012 – 12:00 PM (CST)
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Series: Memphis (3-3), Los Angeles (3-3)
The Game is a Sell Out but will be televised on ABC
Memphis faces their third must win game of the playoffs and their first home game 7 in franchise history. The Grizzlies forced this game with a thrilling 90-88 win at Los Angeles Friday night. The Grizzlies at home have been dominant except for one-quarter but none of that matters in this game. It will be a one game, winner take all battle. Memphis forced a game 7 by returning to their roots combining a pounding interior offense with a suffocating defense. Memphis’ big men, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, combined for 41 points and 25 rebounds in Game 6 after posting 42 points and 17 rebounds in Game 5. Defensively the Grizzlies have transformed from a ball-hawking unit to an in your face type of old school defense holding Los Angeles to only 168 points in the last two games. Tickets for this game sold out early Saturday morning and the atmosphere should be electric.
Los Angeles lost the home court advantage with the loss Friday night and now must try to rebound in a hostile environment with their two best players not at 100%. While everyone is hurting right now the Clippers are suffering more than the normal aches and pains of a condensed season. Don’t expect either player to look injured in Game 7 however. Chris Paul is known as one of the most deadly finishers in the NBA and plays his best in the playoffs. Griffin has been nearly unstoppable in the paint and will likely be more aggressive in this game as well. However, it has been the Clippers bench that has most elevated their team. If Los Angeles’ starters can stay even with the Grizzlies their bench will likely keep the game close until the end. How well the Clippers recover from Friday’s loss will likely determine the outcome of this game.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Paul
Be it a hip flexor or a groin injury, Chris Paul was not his normal self Friday night. While still managing to fill the stat sheet (11 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals), Paul was not his normal self and his two turnovers, zero points in the final minutes of the game was the proof. Chris Paul is considered one of the best finishers in the league and with another day of rest will be even better Sunday than Friday night. Conley has held his own in this matchup averaging 15 ppg and 7.2 apg, both above his seasonal averages, but is being asked to guard Randy Foye more than Chris Paul to protect his confidence from being upset by Paul. Conley will need to play his very best to keep the Grizzlies in the game.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Shooting Guards: Tony Allen vs Randy Foye
Tony Allen wasn’t playing a lot in the final quarters of the first three game. He regained the role of defensive closer in game 3 and has made life tough for Chris Paul especially ever since. Tony still struggles making lay-ups and outside shots but he has the ability to make plays when the team needs them. Randy Foye was a much bigger part of the Clippers offense at the end of the season but has struggled to score in the playoffs despite usually being guarded by Mike Conley. Foye is a set shooter and Conley’s speed getting to the perimeter has made life difficult for the sharp-shooter. The Clippers are expecting Foye to step up in Game 7 since he doesn’t have a big defensive matchup to wear him down. Slightly undersized for a SG Foye has a strong upper-body that allows him to post up Conley but he has rarely chosen to do that in the series.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Caron Butler
Caron Butler has shown the heart of a warrior in this series. He broke his hand in game 1 and was supposed to be lost for the series. Instead he returned in Game 3. Butler’s offense hasn’t been consistent with the playing cast on his left hand but defensively he has given Rudy Gay fits. Gay is averaging 19 ppg in the series, the same as his regular season average, but is shooting 30% lower from the field and 80% lower from the arc. Otherwise Gay has been contributing in a similar fashion as the regular season but twice in the playoffs Rudy failed to hit the game winning shot, something very out of character for the Grizzlies leading scorer. Butler has to be given credit for the poor shooting but his inability to do much else gives the Grizzlies the edge despite the low shooting percentage.
Power Forwards: Zach Randolph vs Blake Griffin
This has been the marquee matchup of the series with two All-Star PFs going to war in the paint. Griffin had a large advantage early in the playoffs as Randolph was struggling to get back into game shape from his injured knee. Suddenly all that changed in Game 5 as Griffin sprained his knee while Randolph rediscovered his game. In the last three games, Randolph has gone from 12 pts and 9 boards to 19 points and 10 boards to 18 points and 16 boards. Griffin, on the other hand, struggled noticeably in Game 6 trying to recover from his injury. His 17 points didn’t look like it but he wasn’t nearly as explosive and sharp cutting in Game 6. How well his knee responds in Game 7 will be telling. If he settles for fade-away jumpers rather than attacking the rim will reveal how healthy he is. Chances are Griffin will be attacking the rim again.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Centers: Marc Gasol vs DeAndre Jordan
Rudy Gay was taking most of the heat but no one was more disappointing in the first four games of the series than Marc Gasol. He hadn’t exceeded 15 points and had only one game with more than 7 rebounds in the first four games. Then Gasol came alive scoring 23 points in each of the next two games and grabbing 16 rebounds combined. More importantly, Gasol became an on the court leader, calling out defensive assignments and taking charge of the team. Gasol was unstoppable against both Jordan and Griffin and his defense against Griffin slowed him down and kept him off the glass. DeAndre Jordan has proven himself to be an impressive power dunker but not much else about his game has been powerful. Jordan’s minutes have dropped to 18 minutes as Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin have become the fourth quarter rotation.
Benches: Memphis vs Los Angeles
O J Mayo has been AWOL this series and that has been tough for him and the team. Mayo has always been a pressure player, raising his game to the occasion. Against the Clippers he has struggled shooting only 30% from the field and failing to reach double figures since game 2. When Mayo is hitting his shots the team is very difficult to defeat, especially when the big men are on their games. Quincy Pondexter and Mo Speights have played well in spurts but they aren’t the talent of Mayo. Memphis needs a big game from Mayo in Game 7. Los Angeles has players known for big time ability off their bench and journey men who know how to play but lack certain ability. When Mo Williams, Nick Young and Eric Bledsoe are on their games they can all score a lot of points quickly. Evans and Martin know all the tricks that are allowed in the playoffs. Combined the Clippers bench has been more effective than their starters and can bring the team back against even the largest of deficits.
Advantage: Los Angeles