The lobs, the superstars, the city, the Los Angeles Clippers are bringing the sizzle and glitz to the NBA playoffs. Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies bring the grit and grind style they've become known for over the last couple of years. They're the perfect foils for one another, so it only feels natural that these two teams give us another first round gem when the playoffs start next week.
If the Grizzlies and Clippers meet again in the first round, the Clippers will likely have home-court advantage thanks to the Clippers 91-87 victory in Memphis Saturday night. In that game, neither team held more than a seven-point lead. These teams couldn't be more even despite their differences in style. Again, the low score, especially in the second half, showed that the Grizzlies are able to force the Clippers to slow the game down and play their style. However, the Clippers proved that they are able to adapt to that change of pace.
Chris Paul: Point Coach
In a potential playoff match-up, the Grizzlies will hold an advantage in coaching. Lionel Hollins has been very good this year, making both in game adjustments as well as integrating several new parts into his team throughout the season. Vinny Del Negro, on the other hand, never completely settled on a concrete rotation throughout the season, which helped caused several ups and downs in the Clippers play this season.
The Grizzlies' ability to impose their style of game on the Clippers is nothing new. Last year during their seven-game series, the Clippers managed to score over 100 points once, a 101-97 overtime win in Game 5. Once again Saturday night, Memphis slowed the pace down in the second half, holding the Clippers to 40 total points. Normally, the Grizzlies' air-tight defense leads to bad decisions at the end of the shot clock.
However, the Clippers' ace in the hole during these situations is Chris Paul. Paul's ability to either create his own shot or find the right person late in the clock is the main reason the Clippers are able to beat the Grizzlies at their own style. It's also why Hollins' coaching advantage over Del Negro is somewhat muted, because substitution and rotation patterns aside, Paul's on court leadership guides the Clippers, especially at the end of games and late in the shot clock.
Gasol-Randolph duo keep calm and carry on
During the second half of Saturday's game, the Grizzlies finished the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take a five-point lead. That was sparked by Marc Gasol's play out of the post. When the Clippers went on a 12-0 run to regain the lead, the Grizzlies dumped the ball inside to Zach Randolph, who promptly scored two-straight baskets to stop the bleeding. The ability to go in to the post with either big man is something no other team in the playoffs can claim.
The vertically challenged Gasol/Randolph duo is the exact opposite from the Clippers' big man combo of DeAndre Jordan and Griffin. Jordan and Griffin are both exciting to watch and Griffin's skill set is as unique as any big man's in the league. However, their poor free throw shooting can be a problem late in games, while Gasol and Randolph both shoot above 75 percent from the free throw line and have range past 18 feet. How Griffin and Jordan fair in containing Gasol and Randolph will go a long way in determining how Clippers vs. Grizzlies Part Two would shake out.
Toss up series
Should the Clippers and Grizzlies meet in the first round (both teams still have a chance to jump in to the three seed), it will be what a 4-5 match-up should be. While their styles are different, these teams are as even as it gets. Give us the chippiness, the body slams, give us the last minute game deciding shots. We're ready for the Grind vs. Glam sequel, so hopefully we get it.