Almost assuredly, the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies will face one another in the first round of the playoffs. With the off chance that the third-seed Denver Nuggets falter down the stretch, the two squads clash in Memphis on Saturday fighting for home court advantage when the postseason begins.
The Clippers, as Pacific Division champions, are the fourth seed in the Western Conference despite being a game behind both the Grizzlies and Nuggets -- those two are tied with 54-25 records with Denver holding the tiebreaker.
Three games remain for all three teams, and the Grizzlies would like nothing more than to tie up the season series that is 1-2 in favor of Los Angeles. Memphis is cruising, having won seven of eight games, including two victories against the Houston Rockets and another against the San Antonio Spurs. The Clippers aren't in bad shape either; despite all their woes against Western Conference opponents of late, they've won four in a row and have found a bit of a rhythm.
The decided difference in this game, as it often is in any contest involving the Clippers, will come down to the bench totals. The Grizzlies won the most recent meeting between the two teams on March 13 by holding the Los Angeles bench to a minimum during a 96-85 victory. Memphis even allowed Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to have their biggest games against the Grizzlies this season -- 22 and 24 points, respectively -- yet holding the bench to 11 points and Jamal Crawford to 1-for-10 shooting put the Grizzlies over the top.
Although that's tough to ask for in consecutive games against the Clippers, the Grizzlies are capable. The NBA's second-best defense that gives up 100.3 points per 100 possessions will use its size to prevent Lob City from putting on a show.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph haven't had consistent offensive success against the Clippers, but they will give Griffin a taste of physicality that he'll need to respond to if Los Angeles wants to earn a huge road victory. In three games against Memphis, Griffin is averaging 14 points per game, but shooting 46 percent, which is significantly worse than his 54 percent shooting on the year.
Matchup to watch
There's no doubt that Paul is one of the best point guards in the league, but Memphis floor general Mike Conley doesn't get enough credit for running Lionel Hollins' offense. Over the last 10 games, Conley has averaged 20 points and six assists per game.
He'll need to find himself against the stingy Paul, who has held the Grizzlies' point guard to just 10 points per game on 28 percent shooting through the three meetings this season.
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Odds: Memphis opened as four-point favorites.