The first half of Tuesday night's game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers proved to be as tight as the series itself, as the Grizzlies used stifling defense toward the end of the second quarter to initiate a run that gave them a 54-48 lead.
Chris Paul leads all scorers with 21 points and is having a stellar game. Unfortunately for the Clippers, turnovers have cost them enough possessions to squander a potential lead.
One significant story that's developed since Game 4 is the apparent high ankle sprain to Blake Griffin. The Clippers' forward was in the starting lineup despite the injury and managed to gut out 13 minutes, totaling four points on 2-of-5 shooting while adding four rebounds and two assists.
For the Grizzlies, taking care of the basketball has served them well, as they've totaled just three turnovers through the first two frames. Additionally, they've used an active defense to mitigate the Clippers' strong shooting performance of 47.2 percent from the field.
SB Nation's Jonathan Tjarks put together this detailed preview of Game 5 and asked three good questions that are sure to be keys to this huge game. Let's revisit them here at the half:
1) Which Zach Randolph shows up?
So far, we're seeing the good Z-Bo. He's efficient and aggressive, leading the Grizz to a respectable showing through the first half with 11 points and 6 rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting. He's getting involved on both ends of the floor and is benefiting from a hobbled Griffin who is obviously laboring and limited on offense. That means he doesn't have to work as hard and can save his energy to contribute in the scoring department.
Memphis' offense is trending in the general direction of Randolph's game, and it appears that if he can turn in a second half similar to the first, then they'll have a legitimate shot at stealing one at Staples Center.
2) The Clippers' supporting cast
With Griffin struggling just to stay on the floor, much less be effective, there is even more pressure for the bench to come through and provide instant offense with their one of their main cogs missing. That means that Jamal Crawford's game will be a primary area of focus, as the Sixth Man of The Year Award candidate has been stellar for the Clips in that role all season.
At this point, he's doing enough to lead the subs and take pressure off the starters with seven points on 2-of-5 shooting, and the rest of the Clips' bench mob is going to have to follow suit in order for them to mount a comeback.
3) To the winner goes the spoils
Tjarks cited the fact that the winner of Game 5 has historically gone on to win the series 83 percent of the time. It appears as if each team understands this statistic, as they are showing the fight and determination reminiscent of a Game 7.
The Clippers are in the driver's seat with home court advantage, but Memphis is poised to rip that from them as they're playing an efficient game and making every possession count with good ball movement and shot selection.