Clippers vs. Grizzlies: How they match up
They all know that the odds are stacked against them, that few give the Clippers any chance of defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference first-round playoff series.
The Clippers didn’t help themselves by giving up the home-court advantage in the last week of the regular season.
Because Memphis is so physical with power forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol, because eighth-seeded Memphis upset the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs last year in the first-round of the playoffs without Rudy Gay and because Memphis is making back-to-back playoff appearances, many scouts and pundits say the Grizzlies are one of the scariest teams in the NBA.
“Who cares?” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. “I can’t go by what everybody says. If somebody can tell me who is going to win every series, we might as well not play.”
Maybe Paul, who has a mild left groin strain, feels that way because the Clippers won the season-series, 2-1, over the Grizzlies.
In the past, the fourth and fifth seeded teams in the playoffs are equally matched.
The best-of-seven series between the Clippers and Grizzlies that begins Sunday night with Game 1 at FedExForum should be no different.
Here is a look at the matchups between the two teams:
Starting guards: Chris Paul and Randy Foye will have their hands full with Grizzlies guards Tony Allen and Mike Conley, if only because Memphis’ guards are good defenders and a big reason why that teams leads the NBA in steals. But Paul is having an MVP-type season and is one of the top point guards in the NBA. Edge: Clippers.
Starting forwards: Blake Griffin and Caron Butler have a big challenge going up against the Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, that’s if he starts over Marreese Speights. Griffin probably will score inside, but he’ll have to play like an All-Star on defense to contend with the crafty, double-double machine that is Randolph. Guy, at 6-8, has the size and leaping ability over Butler. Edge: Memphis
Centers: DeAndre Jordan has to deal with Gasol, who was an All-Star. Jordan will have to be a defensive stopper against Gasol, who is a smart player that can score inside and out, and can pass the ball well from the post. Edge: Memphis.
Benches: The Clippers are 10 deep, playing Mo Williams, Kenyon Martin, Eric Bledsoe, Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans off the bench. Memphis goes with O.J. Mayo, Gilbert Arenas, Quincy Pondexter and Randolph or Speights. Edge: Even
Offense: The Clippers don’t have any problems scoring. They averaged 97.5 points a game. Paul runs the attack for the Clippers, always probing the defense, keeping his dribble alive, running a variety of pick-and-roll sets. Look for the Clippers to go inside to Griffin and then hoist up jumpers. Conley disturbs the ball well, Randolph can score inside, Gasol is a threat and so is Gay. Memphis shoots the least amount of three-pointers in the NBA, but it looks to run off steals and rebounds. Edge: Even.
Defense/Rebounding: The Clippers improved on defense, mixing in a zone with a man to man. But they can’t have Griffin leaking out before they get a stop or it will be a long night. The Clippers allowed 94.9 points a game. Memphis allowed only 92.5 points, the fifth-best defense in the NBA. Memphis was first in steals, getting 9.56, which will be interesting because the Clippers turned the ball over just 11.18 times, the lowest in the NBA. The Clippers averaged 41.5 reboundsMemphis 42.06. Edge: Memphis
Coaches: Vinny Del Negro and his staff have done an excellent job, especially after losing three consecutive games and with the tension building about his job security. But Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins has gotten Memphis back to the playoffs in consecutive years. Edge: Memphis (slightly).
Turner’s pick: Memphis in 7, because the Grizzlies have home court, are more physical and have more playoff experience.
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