The FullyClips.com writing staff answered roundtable questions about the upcoming(tonight!) Memphis Grizzlies over the weekend, and here they are for your consumption and enjoyment!
Who will be the Clippers X-factor(outside of Paul and Griffin), if they are going to win this series?
Anthony Ananian: The X-factor for the Clippers has to be Mo Williams. They need his outside shooting and production off the bench or else this is going to be a very quick series. He has been their most consistent bench player over the course of the season. He is the beneficiary of a lot of open looks thanks to all the attention Chris Paul and Blake Griffin draw from the opposing team’s defense. They need him to come in, provide energy, hit shots, speed up the tempo of the game and just be the 3rd option on offense.
Aron Jacobowitz: Randy Foye. The Clippers need a consistent third scorer and Randy Foye has become that guy over the last few months. He leads the NBA in three-pointers made since the All star break and he has had multiple games with more than five. We recently saw the Clippers lose to Atlanta while Paul and Griffin combined for 70 points. Randy Foye had 0 and no other player scored in double figures. Consistent third option is the key to the Clippers playoff success.
Dave Daniels: DeAndre Jordan. It will be highly difficult for the Clippers to contain Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, last year they did knock off a veteran #1 seed Spurs team and they will be coming to battle every night. I expect good production from Blake, but it will be Jordan’s contributions especially on the defensive end that could sway the series.
Joshua Neighbors: As much as I think Randy Foye is the guy from a scoring standpoint, overall its got to be Deandre Jordan. Memphis possesses two big men who can really cause some problems. Zach Randolph has been hurt for a more then half of the season, but we all know what he can do in the playoffs and he will be checked Blake Griffin. Gasol is the other problem. He averages close to 15 points a game and almost 9 rebounds. He poses a threat to cause second chance opportunities, which the Clippers cannot allow. Deandre Jordan must handle him on defense and box out. Yes, Deandre Jordan and his ability to box out might be the X factor.
Who is the Grizzlies X-factor(outside of Gay and Randolph) if they pull out a series win?
Anthony Ananian: Tony Allen. I was tempted to say Marc Gasol but I’m confident that Gasol will show up and play his basic game. But Tony Allen might be the most important part of their defense against this Clippers team. I don’t know if he can keep up with chasing Mo Williams and Chris Paul around all series but you can count on seeing him matched up on those players at different points of the game. He’s a tough, physical, gritty player and they need him to have an impact defensively.
Aron Jacobowitz: Mike Conley. He has consistently improved as a player since entering the league and has silenced all the naysayers once the Grizzlies extended him for 5 years, $45 million. He is second only to Chris Paul in steals and runs a very balanced offensive attack for the Grizzlies. If he is able to stay on the floor for around 38 minutes per game, the Grizzlies have a very good chance at taking the series because of their lack of point guard depth.
Joshua Neighbors: OJ Mayo off the bench and particularly his match-up with Randy Foye( if that becomes the matchup), who tends to be defensively negligent at times. Mayo will need to use his athleticism and strength to get to the hole. If he can cause a matchup problem, he will force The Clippers make adjustments that cause other issues.
Will the Grizzlies stout defense win the turnover battle, or will Chris Paul’s ball-handling win the day?
Aron Jacobowitz: Chris Paul won two playoff games against the L.A. Lakers last season with the Hornets seemingly on his own. He hits another gear come playoff time. It’s hard to imagine there is another gear on this guy, but his almost flawless decision making and much improved jump shot gives the edge to the best point guard in the league. He has generated a more comfortable rapport with his teammates as the season has progressed and heading into the postseason healthy, he seems poised for a spectacular performance.
Dave Daniels: Chris Paul has had the type of season that indicates ball-handling will not be a problem for him. He has had his career-low in turnovers per game this season and will keep up his good work there. However, I do think that Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe will struggle against Tony Allen, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
Joshua Neighbors: Paul has proven time and time again that he is the premier point guard in the league and when it’s the clutch, Paul isn’t throwing the ball away. It’s also the playoffs, which adds extra incentives for someone who has never gotten past the first round and is hungry for victory. Memphis will cause some turnovers, but I feel Paul can will his team to victory with his complete game, which includes taking care of the ball.
Who will win the Blake Griffin vs. Zach Randolph match-up?
Anthony Ananian: Although I think Zach is a better player skill-wise, I’m going to have to go with Blake on this one. With Randolph you don’t have to worry about his free throw shooting and he isn’t a liability on offense late in games, but he is coming off an injury and still isn’t 100%. Memphis is bringing him off the bench and I think he’ll be great in that role but I don’t expect him to dominate the way he did in last years playoffs.
Aron Jacobowitz: Zach Randolph is one of the most active offensive rebounding forwards in the game. Last season he led the league pulling down almost 5 per contest. Blake is still a bit immature when it comes to boxing out and playing one on one defense, however, he has noticeably improved in both areas.I’d have to say, overall, these two all stars will cancel each other out in terms of production. Neither can defend the other and both have a knack for the loose ball. I’d say this matchup will end up even.
Joshua Neighbors: This one is so difficult because I feel Randolph has the size(weight) and experience advantage. However, Blake is more athletic and Randolph has been injured. But, Randolph put on one hell of a show in the playoffs last year, which leads me to believe he could do it again. I have to go with Blake’s athleticism and speed, although this is the playoffs. He must answer all the questions being asked about his toughness and you have to believe Randolph will put him to the test, but I like Blake Griffin.
Will Chris Paul be slow coming off of his groin injury, or will he be the MVP of the series(or somewhere in between)?
Aron Jacobowitz: As I mentioned earlier, Chris Paul hits another gear come playoff time. He sat out the season finale in order to be certain he will be his MVP self come Sunday night. The Clippers feel confident in their ability to win on the road as they were only one game under .500 for the season at 16-17. Paul knows better than anyone that he must perform at a high level for the Clippers to steal home court and advance deep in the tightly contested Western conference. Not only did he put up an MVP caliber regular season, he will rise to the occasion when the time calls for it. Paul will undoubtedly be the MVP of the series.
Dave Daniels: Chris Paul has already recovered from an ACL injury in his career, and he won’t let this injury slow him down from being the most controlled and dominant player on the court in this series. I think the Clippers realized before their season-finale that having Paul totally healthy for the series was more important than
Joshua Neighbors: There is no way he will let this slow him down. Expect to see the same Chris Paul we’ve seen all season, but a bit more dialed in. As I said before, this guy wants it badly and he wants it now. He will lead his team and be a clear cut candidate for MVP of the series.
Will the Clippers losing home-field advantage on the final day of the season significantly hurt their chances to win their first two games on the road?
Aron Jacobowitz: Absolutely not. Most analysts will point to the fact that the Grizzlies have won 11 straight home games entering the playoffs, but what they wont say is how bad the Grizzlies struggled to defeat the bottom feeders of the league in those games. The Cavs, Bobcats and the Magic’s scrub unit all gave the Grizz significant problems on their home court – and that can’t be a huge confidence booster entering a series with the Clippers. Just take a look at the last time these teams met: The Clippers were down big late in the game, but fought and clawed their way back to within 3 before the Grizzlies were able to close it out. The Clippers know they can beat this team whether it is in Staples or FedEx Forum.
Dave Daniels: I think that this series would have been a bit easier to handle for the Clippers had managed to hold onto the 4-seed, but I do think they will be able to take one of first two road games and take home-field back. If they don’t take one of the first two though, I don’t like their chances coming back from a 2-0 deficit.
Joshua Neighbors: No, I felt they were going to split the first two games of the series regardless of where it was played. The Clippers are one game under .500 on the road this year and I feel like they will be able to split the first two games.
How long will this series last and who will win?
Anthony Ananian: I have this series going 6 games, with Memphis winning. The Clippers have improved considerably since last season thanks to Chris Paul but the Grizzlies are just flat-out the better team from top to bottom. Their roster is well-rounded and more complete than the Clippers’, and they have less question marks surrounding their defense.
Aron Jacobowitz: This series will have one of two outcomes: The Clippers will win in 6, or the Grizzlies will win in 7. It is the most evenly matched series in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Joshua Neighbors: I like the first four games to be a split, but I think the Clippers will win it in 6. It’s Chris Paul’s year to finally get over the first round hump that has been in front of him for almost 6 years now. It will be a long and grueling 6 games, but I gotta take The Clips.
Dave Daniels: I think that this series is going to be incredible with high-highs and low-lows from both teams. I believe it will come down to a game 7 last second shot with Chris Paul rocking the ball back and forth, making a run at the hoop, a quick shift in the lane, and then… Swish.