Post Up: On the Brink
The Grizzlies are one win away from ending the Clippers’ season for good.
Grizzlies 103, Clippers 93 (Grizzlies lead series 3-2)
No adjustments necessary for the Grizzles—just stay the course. Keep feeding the post, playing tough defense and spreading the love. Nothing to see here, other than three straight wins over the Clips. This one was spectacular for Memphis, being that it came on the road at Staples Center where they struggled during the first two games of the series. Memphis leaned on the dominant post play of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in Game 5, the posts combining for 46 points and 19 rebounds in the 103-93 win.
With Blake Griffin hobbled by an ankle sprain sustained during practice on Monday, the Clippers offense struggled under the stifling Memphis D. Chris Paul tried to put LA on his back, finishing with 35 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.“We have to play with desperation,” he said. “They say the Playoffs don’t start until somebody loses at home—I guess now it’s started, we lost here at home,” he continued. “We tried to come out with some energy and they just beat us up again. Me as a point guard, I gotta find a way to get everybody involved.”
Griffin fought through the pain early but the ankle clearly disrupted his play on both ends. Gasol hit him with a nasty spin move in the first half for a three point play and midway through the third, Griffin was out of the game for good, finishing with 4 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes of action. “I’ve just tried to slow him down, Blake is an all star player,” Randolph said. “I’ve tried to front him, not let him get the ball and push him out far, to his left. We’re just playing together and playing team basketball.”
Chauncey Billups, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and Griffin combined for 18 points while Jamal Crawford added 15 points off the bench. LA had decent bench contributions from Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes but without Griffin’s firepower, they didn’t stand a chance. “It’s tough but I think L.O. did a great job stepping in that spot,” Paul said of replacing Griffin. “It’s going to be by committee—you can’t just replace Blake Griffin with one person. We need to see if we can get Marc Gasol out the lane—every time we come down he’s standing in the lane.”
Memphis continued to control tempo for the third straight game—each time the Clippers chipped away at their second half lead, they answered. Up 71-65 with seconds remaining in the third quarter, Jerryd Bayless managed to go coast to coast for a layup at the buzzer to keep the momentum in place. Late in the fourth with 1:30 remaining, LA cut the Memphis lead to five points before Tayshaun Prince knocked down an open three pointer for the ultimate dagger. At the post game presser, a spectacled Randolph was not in the mood for celebration. “We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “We still need to come in on Friday and focus and try to finish our business.”
Paul was upbeat and to the point during his press conference and did not hesitate when asked if the series will make it back to LA. “No question, I’m in the wrong profession if I think otherwise,” he said. “We have to win there—we’ve shown the ability to do that before.” —Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
Nuggets 107, Warriors 100 (Warriors lead series 3-2)
On one hand, this was to be expected. The Golden State Warriors had just pulled off a three-game stretch where they shot 57.6 percent from the field while winning three straight from the higher-seeded Denver Nuggets. On the other hand, this could not be assumed. After a Game 1 win that needed heroics from the AARP-card carrying member Andre Miller, George Karl’s squad looked like a defeated bunch leaving Oracle Arena on Sunday. Would this be it for the team that produced the greatest NBA regular season record in franchise history?
Nope, there’s still a heartbeat afterall.
Last night, the Nuggets looked like the Nuggets we’d all grew to love during the course of the 2012-13 NBA season. Miller and Ty Lawson operated as the yin and yang of floor generals, Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler manned the wings and rained much-needed threes, and JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried were both active on the glass and in defending the rim. The Nuggs looked confident—maybe even boosted by their home crowd that had seen them struggle so mightily in Oakland during the two games prior—and played with the urgency that made many believe that they could be the darkhorse candidates to make the NBA Finals.
Of course, there was something that both the Denver players and fans seemed to display on Tuesday night that was totally unexpected; the Nuggets were nasty to the Warriors, especially to the emerging superstar that is Stephen Curry. Every chance Curry ran through traffic, the Nuggets delivered a forearm shiver, shoulder, hip check and trip maneuver to Curry, just to let him know this wasn’t going to be any easy sledding. Moreover, the Nuggets fans were rabidly booing Curry any chance he touched the rock. As Curry left the arena in a 107-100 defeat, some arena patron decided to say something in the general vicinity of Curry, and Curry definitely heard it.
Curry reacted, ran up into the fan’s face, and said some things that I imagine sounded something like, “You better watch your mouth before I challenge you to a game of Tekken, you rabblerouser you!” (Or something like that, with more expletives.) Regardless, a battered and chided Curry struggled on Tuesday, finishing with just 15 points on 7-of-19 shooting, along with a 1-for-7 performance from long range.
Will the rankling and ridiculing of Curry and the rest of the Warriors work in Game 6, in a hostile-on-its-own crowd like the one in Oakland? Denver doesn’t have much of a choice in this matter, so I’d be looking for more of the same from the squad whose season could officially end on Thursday evening. —Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan