After the Clippers won pretty easily in Game 1, the Grizzlies mounted a furious comeback in Game 2, as they tried to steal home-court advantage in what many thought would be the most competitive series of the first round. However, they came up just short, with Chris Paul hitting a buzzer-beater to give L.A. a 93-91 victory and a decisive 2-0 lead. Now, with their backs against the wall, they'll hope to flip the dynamic of the series when it returns to Memphis for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
TV channel: TNT
Odds: Grizzlies by 4
Three big questions about the game:
Can the Grizzlies get more out of Zach Randolph?
Through the first two games, perhaps the biggest disappointment on the Grizzlies roster has been the play of All-Star PF Zach Randolph. His numbers are down across the board from the regular season, as he's averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 personal fouls in the postseason. Randolph has struggled with the physicality of Blake Griffin and gotten himself in foul trouble in both games, putting a Memphis team without much offensive firepower at a tremendous disadvantage.
The key to the Grizzlies offense is Randolph's and Marc Gasol's ability to dominate on the interior. If they aren't creating double teams and controlling the tempo of the game, Memphis doesn't have the offensive prowess on the perimeter to match up with a team as explosive as the Clippers. Randolph, who's now 31 years old, hasn't been the same player since tearing his ACL last season. If Memphis has any chance of beating L.A. and making a deep run in the playoffs, they'll need him to return to the form he showed in 2011, when he carried them to a dramatic upset of the Spurs in the first round.
How will Vinny Del Negro handle the Clippers rotation?
While he's gotten a lot of criticism in his time in L.A., Del Negro has had a difficult job this season of divvying out playing time with such a deep roster. It's particularly a concern in the backcourt, where he has an almost embarrassment of riches now that Chauncey Billups has returned to action. Chris Paul is their MVP candidate, but Billups, Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford all bring a different element to the table and the way Del Negro handles their minutes could be one of the keys to the Clippers' chances of stealing a game in Memphis.
After a 14-point showing in Game 1, Billups fell back to Earth in Game 2, with 5 points and 1 assist on 2-of-8 shooting in 23 minutes. Bledsoe, in contrast, received only 14 minutes, even though his incredible athleticism and ability to ball-hawk defensively has made him a matchup nightmare for Mike Conley, the Grizzlies' most consistent perimeter threat. Crawford, meanwhile, put on a show in Game 2, with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 34 minutes, including a memorable stretch in the second quarter where he hit a series of increasingly difficult jumpers in a three-minute stretch.
Could this be the end of the road for the "Grit 'N Grind" Grizzlies?
Ever since a new ownership group took over in Memphis this season, this version of the Grizzlies appears to be living on borrowed time. After they dealt away Rudy Gay and most of their bench scoring in two controversial in-season trades, there are no guarantees for anyone on the Memphis roster, especially if they lose in the first round for the second consecutive season. Tony Allen is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the team doesn't have much room to maneuver financially if they want to avoid the luxury tax.
While Conley and Gasol are locked into fairly reasonable long-term contracts, Randolph is owed $35 million over the next two seasons. If he isn't able to step up over the rest of the series, the cost-conscious Grizzlies front office might look to move his salary and retool. As a result, there will likely be a cloud hanging over the team when they take the floor on Thursday, with everyone in the stands and on the sidelines aware of what's at stake. This team has become beloved in the Memphis area for their blue-collar style of play and there will likely be an electric atmosphere in the FedExForum as they prepare for what could be their last stand.