Friday, April 19th, 2013 at 5:31 pm  |  16 responses

Clippers-Grizzlies Series Preview

The Grizzlies look to avenge last season’s first-round Playoff exit.

by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree

Following a record breaking season for the franchise, nut-cutting time has arrived for the Los Angeles Clippers. All season long, stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin insisted the team had much bigger goals than winning the Pacific division, a record win streak and back-to-back winning seasons. Their sights have been set on the Playoffs and making a serious run for the title and that road will begin with a very tough Memphis Grizzles team on Saturday night at Staples Center. Both teams finished with a 56-26 record, the Clips awarded the No. 4 seed and the Griz No. 5.

Memphis also set a record for franchise wins this season and many players have noted that they still feel the burn from their first-round Playoff loss to L.A. last year. The Grizzles had the League’s best team defense this year, allowing 90 points per game and have never lacked confidence thanks to veterans like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. Their team D will be difficult for the Clippers in halfcourt and I expect they will look to run and shift momentum as often as possible. This matchup will likely be one of the most entertaining in round one.

Here’s a look at the battles at each position:

Point Guard: Chris Paul (16.9 pts/9.7 assists/2.4 steals) vs Mike Conley (14.6 pts/6.1assists/2.2 steals)

CP3 put together another phenomenal season in L.A., leading the squad and his teammates to new heights. As one of the best PGs in the League, expect the ball to be in his hands late in games, controlling tempo and strategy. Eric Bledsoe will get some good minutes at PG as well, he can serve as a dangerous bolt of energy for the Clippers from time to time. Conley had a fantastic season as well, continuing his progression as a young PG, shooting 44 percent from the field. He finished the season strong and will be spelled at times by Jerryd Bayless.

Advantage: Clippers

Shooting Guard: Chauncey Billups (8.4 pts/2.2 assists) vs Tony Allen (8.9 pts/4.6 rebs)

Billups appeared in only 22 games this season and has worked back into the lineup slowly, replacing Willie Green who has filled his spot most of the season. Even though he has played in two games during the month of April, he appears to be healthy and ready to go for the Playoffs—his basketball IQ and toughness will be critical for L.A. It will be interesting to see what Mr. Big Shot can do in this series against one of the best defenders in the League in Tony Allen. Allen has a swag like no other in the L, believing he can defend anyone. His D will be needed when L.A. goes to its bench for the League’s best sixth man, Jamal Crawford. Crawford—one of the Clippers’ leading scorers—is one of the most dangerous players in the L when he’s hot. There will be no break for Allen.

Advantage: Clippers

Small Forward: Caron Butler (10.4 pts/2.9 rebs) vs Tayshaun Prince (10.4 pts/4.4 rebs)

Butler was his steady self this season, a stable rock in the Clippers lineup all season long. He was slowed by a knee injury late but he seems to be fine and ready to go for the Playoffs. Prince has played a similar role for Memphis since joining the squad after being dealt from Detroit mid-season. Expect Lamar Odom to get minutes here—he has worked himself into good shape after starting slow early in the year and can be relied upon at this point. Quincy Pondexter will spell Prince off the bench.

Advantage: Push

Power Forward: Blake Griffin (18 pts/8.3 rebs) vs Zach Randolph (15.4 pts/11.2 rebs)

The matchup everyone is looking forward to will be on the blocks with these two unique talents. Griffin continued his progression as an all-around player this season and the team limited his minutes to save him for the postseason. He will face a major challenge on D against Randolph who can be a monster on the blocks with his array of moves. Griffin will keep pressure on Randolph by trying to outrun him in transition. These two do not like each other much, so expect it to get testy at times. Can’t wait.

Advantage: Clippers

Center: DeAndre Jordan (8.8 pts/7.2 rebs/1.4 blks) vs Marc Gasol (14.1 pts/7.8 rebs/ 1.7 blks)

This will be a big matchup on D for L.A. Gasol has put together another impressive season and is likely a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Jordan had a good season in his own right, but will have his hands full trying to defend Gasol and staying out of foul trouble. Jordan will look for his standard alley-oops that usually get the crowd going. Jordan isn’t much of a factor in the halfcourt but he will try to consistently get out in transition and could be dangerous when not blocked out.

Advantage: Memphis

Prediction: Expect a series filled with highlight reel plays and balanced scoring from their stars. The bench will be critical for Memphis as coach Lionel Hollins has made it clear they will need to match the Clippers bench prowess. The Clippers’ depth within their second group will make that very difficult and ultimately, I think L.A. will be too much to handle.

Clippers Win 4-1.

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  • Bruno

    4-1??? at least 4-3 … but I think Memphis’s gonna win this series

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this thing is not going less than 6. idk if LAC is even going to win the series. Marc Gasol is by far the best big in this. And Mike Conley + Tony Allen is going to give Chris Paul hell.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/savagemuzicgroup T-Ray

    I’m not so sure about the Grizz winning the series. I think the X factor in this series that will tip the scale in favor of the Clippers is JCrawford.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Tony Allen. How in the world is Jamal Crawford going to kill the Grizzlies for more than 2 minutes before Allen gets put on him? (literally, Allen did not get beat by one player on a consistent basis all season. In fact, he is going to garner a slew of DPOY votes.)

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/savagemuzicgroup T-Ray

    For one I think Lionel Hollins is gullible enough to leave Conley on CP3 and let Allen guard Crawford. I think it’s a matter of pick your poison. I’m not saying Conley is a slouch defensively but I want to put my best defender on their best player and they means sacrificing Crawford going off potentially.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Man, Conley has been the best defensive starting PG in the NBA this season…..you been paying attention? Paul has been a bit overrated (not because he lacks ability, but because he lacks consistent defensive effort). Conley has been great, and his speed should help wear Paul out, considering he is going to press him every step of the way. idk, i just think Memphis is being underrated, and they are much improved since supplanting Gay with Tayshun Prince.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/savagemuzicgroup T-Ray

    I’ve been paying attention. If anything I agree with you that Conley is a stud defensively. My point is that I would rather have Allen on CP3 because he’s longer. Thus leaving Conley to contend with Crawford. I’m not counting the Grizz out and I was very shocked to see the prediction for this series. I feel this will be the most exciting along with DEN/GS.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    you don’t like the, “wear Chris Paul out” theory? i think i actually like the idea of Conley playing slightly less effective defense more tightly on Paul all game, then to have Tony Allen play less taxing more effectively all game.
    my point being, i would probably wait to switch Tony Allen onto Paul until the end of games. give LAC the option of trying to win a series with Jamal Crawford over Chris Paul. That, imo, gives them an inherent advantage. I’m almost talking myself into taking the Grizzlies in this one.

  • Michael

    Man people are ignorant as fu**. I seriously believe 90 percent of people on these websites don’t even watch the teams they comment on. Sounds like you guys are caught up watching TNT’s crew and regurgitating their lies. How in God’s name does Memphis match up well or get favored? The Clippers have beaten the Grizzlies 13 out of the last 17 times they have played including the playoffs last year. The Clippers biggest weakness is 3 point shooting. The Grizzlies are dead last in the NBA in 3′s attempted and made overall and per game. Meaning they suck at shooting the 3, therefor they don’t hurt the Clips style of play.

    The Clippers have a reputation of being average defensively but they were a top 5 defense all year and in 4 games held Memphis to just 84 ppg which is pretty amazing and won the series 3-1. In fact the Grizzlies one game shot a franchise low 30 percent from the field and that was when Chris Paul sat in. Grizzlies stand no chance and the Clippers are the one team they were praying they didn’t have to play. So everybody saying the Clippers should be worried or will lose need to wake up. The Clippers have beaten Memphis 3 straight times in Memphis.

  • Michael

    I’m sorry… 13-6 over the last 3 years… so 13 of 18, not 13 of 17. Either way it’s clear the Clippers have been dominant over Memphis.

  • Max

    CP3 doesn’t even look to score all that much in the first 3 quarters.
    Tony Allen will lock Crawford down, Grizz in 6 or 7 if ZBo can score consistently.

  • Max

    Had it not been for Reggie Evans and Nick Young, the Clips would’ve lost last year.

  • Michael

    You mean the 27th ranked overall bench in the NBA which now ranks 1st overall? Crawford+Barnes+improved Bledsoe+Odom+Hollins is way better than what we had last year bro. Sure Evans and Kmart were huge in that series but they also vanished in the Spurs series and our bench overall is way more dangerous now.

  • Max

    WE4LL SEE? this will be the best first rouhhnd series..

  • Michael

    See what happened? Win by 21 points in game one without a problem. I expect this thing to be done in 5 or 6 games with the Clippers sending Memphis packing again. The Clippers bench and CP3 are just too overwhelming. Memphis has their huge scoring lulls.

  • Max

    You could be right, might be done in 6..