Why the Clippers Lead the Series 3-1

May 7, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) shoots a basket against the Memphis Grizzlies during the overtime period of game four of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Clippers are in a great position to win this series and advance to the 2nd round of the Playoffs.  I predicted the Grizzlies would win this series, and they could very well have won this series 4-0 by now if it weren’t for their collapse in Game 1, a cold 4th quarter in Game 3, and their inability to slow down Chris Paul late in Game 4.  Let’s take a look at why the Clippers are leading this series despite Memphis having a better team.

  • Toughness.  Coming into the series, Memphis was regarded as one of the most physical tough teams in the league.  Tony Allen’s smothering 1-on-1 defense, Marc Gasol’s big body patrolling the paint, and the rest of the team’s overall hustle and gritty play led me to believe that the Clippers stood no chance in this department.  I didn’t think the Clippers were physically or mentally tough enough to keep up with the Grizzlies, but everything changed after Game 1.  The Grizzlies haven’t been the same since that historic loss, they’re actually being out-worked and out-hustled by the Clippers in almost every area you look at.
  • Reggie Evans.  We’ll get to Chris Paul in a minute but the Clippers would have already lost this series by now if it wasn’t for Reggie Evans’ spectacular play.  In the 4 games so far, he’s averaging 8.3 rebounds in only 21 minutes off the bench (just for comparison Blake is averaging 6.3 rebounds in 37 minutes).  The one game the Clippers lost in this series, Reggie Evans had only 1 rebound, I’m sensing a correlation there.  He has provided the mental and physical toughness that was in question for the Clippers before the series started.
  • Marc Gasol.  I don’t want to credit the Clippers defense entirely for the way that Marc Gasol has played, although they’ve done a great job pushing him off his spots and not letting him get into the paint easily.  But there’s no reason why someone as skilled as Marc Gasol should go a whole game with only 4 shot attempts.  He attempted 10 shots in game 1 and his activity on offense was a huge reason why they jumped out to such an early lead.  In Game 2 he attempted 9 shots, and his team won by 7.  Game 3, 5 shot attempts, Game 4, only 4 shot attempts.  Why has he shot less and less as the series goes on?  He’s known for being the complete opposite of Pau Gasol when it comes to his toughness and physicality but there have been instances in the series where he has played as poorly as his brother Pau did in last year’s playoffs.
  • Chris Paul.  The best point guard in the league debate is over, just stop it.  He’s showing us his extra Playoff gear, that not a lot of players possess.  He reads the game better than anybody in the league, can get his shot off against anybody when he decides its necessary for him to score, can setup his teammates when he thinks he needs to get them going, and when it comes to closing out games, no one does it more efficiently.  When the score is close late in the game, and Chris Paul gets a shot off, you know its going in, every single time.
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