Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers
When: Friday, May 3rd, 8:30PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Series Standing: Grizzlies lead 3-2
Media: ESPN, Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Opposing Views: ClipperBlog, ESPNLA- Clippers
Memphis adjusted mightily after getting abused in Los Angeles through the first two games of the series, and has now taken the series lead. Following a successful defense of home court in the first two at the Grindhouse, the Grizzlies rode the momentum to victory in Game 5 back at the Staples Center. Now in the driver’s seat of the series, the Grizz can decide their fate with a win tonight as they aim to become just the sixteenth team in NBA history to win a playoff series after trailing 0-2. Lionel Hollins is coaching for a contract, be it here or elsewhere, and pulling his team out of the first round for the second time in three years would be a pretty nice vantage point, so you know that he’s going to have the troops rallied. The team has rallied around superior post play complements of the perfectly-timed resurgence of Zach Randolph, and the steadying hand of Marc Gasol. In the last 145 minutes of play between these two teams, the Grizzlies have led for 111 of them.
Los Angeles seemed deflated and out of sorts due in part to getting proverbially punched in the mouth back in Memphis, as well as the high ankle sprain suffered by star forward Blake Griffin during practice. It’s not that the Clippers lost the last game in LA that displayed a loss of morale – they were in it up until the end = but rather the way that they lost. It appeared as if when the deck began stacking against them, the team threw up their hands and looked to Chris Paul as if to say, “save us.” And he almost did. Paul was electric as usual on Tuesday with 35 points on 24 shots, but as evidenced by his anemic assists total of 4 (by his standards), he can’t do it on his own.
- Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were incredible yet again last time out. Zbo and Gasol traded quarters, essentially, as they dominated the offensive end of the floor. Immediately out of the break, Gasol was posted on the block each possession, and almost always something good came of it. When Marc was in dire straits with foul trouble in the fourth, Randolph activated beast mode and chipped in 10 of his team high 25 points. One more dominant performance from the tandem and the Grizzlies should have the series in the bag. The Clippers were tossing different defenders at the post duo all night long, none of which contained the answers to slow them down. When the Clips then resorted to packing the paint, they got whistled for three three-second violations, all within the second quarter.
- Piggybacking on the last point to some degree, the battle for rebounds has been paramount. The differential was a slim two boards, but again the winner of the game correlated positively with the winner of the rebound battle. Everybody is getting into the act for Memphis, and buying into crashing the boards. For example, Tony Allen has brought in 10, 9, and 8 rebounds on different occasions this series, and Quincy Pondexter is consistently seen flying towards the basket from the wing as the ball is up in the air, especially on the offensive end. Similarly, Marc has been sound since game one and Zbo has asserted himself as his usual juggernaut self on the offensive glass.
- After a definitive lull in productivity to start the series, the small forward position has suddenly been awakened. Tayshaun Prince has settled into his playoff role with the team and has seriously stepped up his game. For a guy that has spent his entire ten year career to this point with a single team, comfort had to have been a major contributor to his down performance early on. Or maybe it was the wake-up call of Pondexter taking his fourth quarter minutes in Game 3. Regardless, the two of them have answered the call by committee on the offensive end, and have played heads up on the other side of the court. Prince has pieced together back to back 15 point outputs, with no shot bigger than the three point dagger late in the 4th, Tuesday night. Quincy, on the other end of the floor, played some excellent defense on Paul whenever it was asked of him. Speaking of…
- The Grizzlies did a wonderful job of keeping the ball out of Paul’s hands down the stretch in the fourth quarter. This is essential because Paul was really in rhythm for the majority of the game. With their collective back against the wall and a few days to prepare against this, the Clippers will be sure to find ways to ensure that their premier playmaker is given the opportunity to well, make plays, with the game and the series in the balance. I’m not sure that the Grizz will be able to match this and keep the ball away from Paul in Game 6, but what they can do is their due diligence to keep Gasol out of foul trouble this time around so that he is in the game at the end to mitigate the damage Paul loves to inflict off the pick and roll.
- Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about Mike Conley. Yet again, he shot pretty poorly from the floor. However, yet again he made a huge difference in favor of the Grizzlies. Conley’s play has got to be encouraging to all parties, seeing as he’s lining up across from the hats-off top point guard in the league, and at the very least holding his own. The open looks will not keep on bricking forever and by attacking the basket as hard as he has, he’s freeing up shots for his teammates regardless. His average of 8.6 assists per game in the playoffs this year is 2.5 higher than his output in the regular season, and is good for second to only first round hero Stephen Curry. Additionally, he’s getting to the free throw line at a rate that not only rivals, but betters CP3 this series (7.2 FTA/game to 5.6).
Some Final Musings:
- Lionel Hollins will be coaching in the NBA next season, but will it be in Memphis? How he gets the Grizzlies to claw through the rest of this series could very well be the deciding factor.
- Jerryd Bayless was pretty effective in Game 5, especially with an incredibly important blow-by layup with time expiring in the third quarter, but will likely continue to see reduced minutes due to unfavorable matchups and tightened rotations. Also, will he ever keep that right foot from stepping on the three line?
- For how long can the starters continue to log serious minutes without showing some wear? If the Grizzlies are to move on, avoiding a Game 7 with a win tonight will go a long way in protecting against that. Houston is not making it easy on Oklahoma City in the adjacent portion of the bracket, which bodes well for the winner of this series.
- After Game 1, the Grizz have done a good job of closing out and clamping down on the Clippers’ shooters without fouling them on shot attempts. That will have to continue.
- We don’t bluff.
For the over-arching matchup analyses, click here.