The Los Angeles Clippers, behind Blake Griffin‘s 23 points, fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 106-102 as they couldn’t stop the duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph (combined for 49 points and 24 rebounds, and 10 assists).
There is no better rivalry in the NBA than Clippers-Grizzlies. All of the ingredients combined to form the “perfect” rivalry: the highlight plays, playoff matchups (1-1 against each other in the playoffs the last two years), the animosity, and the physicality. They have it all.
Tonight won’t be the same due to Marc Gasol’s absence, but that won’t stop these teams from liking each other and the fans from loathing each other.
Los Angeles is coming off of an uninspiring loss to the Atlanta Hawks where they were punched in the mouth early and never put up a serious fight on both ends on the floor for the rest of the way. Coming out flat against a Grizzlies team coming off their best performance of the season in a win over the Phoenix Suns could spell for an easy loss on a long road trip.
That’s the opposite of what this Clippers teams need. Even if Zach Randolph plays his first game in a week, Los Angeles is a better team that Memphis. And they need to show it in the Fed Ex Forum.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
1. Keeping the Bigs at Bay
For the first time, probably ever, this “key to victory” doesn’t solely pertain to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Obviously Gasol is out and Randolph may miss his third straight game, but that doesn’t stop the Grizzlies big men from being a force. Against the Phoenix Suns, Jon Leuer, Ed Davis, and Kosta Koufos combined for 58 points, 33 rebounds and 7 blocks. It should be noted that Paul Millsap and Al Horford had their way on the boards against the Clippers last night which is why I present this “problem”. Naturally Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have been solid on the boards, they’ve had moments where the effort is absent. This picture says it all:
This Grizzlies team struggles to score, so keeping the three-headed monster off the boards is key to walking away with a win.
2. Make Allen & Prince Beat You
I wanted to opt for “make them beat you from the outside, but this team doesn’t shoot a lot of threes nor do they ever force the three-ball. But one thing you can do is force the ball out of their money-makers hands and into those who shouldn’t be shooting unless closer than ten feet of the basketball: Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince. These two are the type of players where, if they being knocking down jump shots you allow it because it throws off the flow of the offense and keeps Mike Conley‘s and others cold on the offensive end. and if they end up beating you? Well that’s a pill not so tough to swallow. But the odds say they won’t beat you because Tony Allen.. is still Tony Allen and last I checked it is 2013 and not 2004 re: Tayshaun Prince. Even then he still might not have been able to will a team to carry a team on his back offensively and will the team to victory.
3. Blake Griffin Asserting His Dominance over Davis and Leuer
It’s unclear whether Zach Randolph’s elite defense (I laughed) is the factor here or the pressure he puts on Blake, physically and mentally, but Blake Griffin has underperformed against Z-Bo since entering the league. Here are his regular season and playoff splits when going up against Randolph:
Regular Season: 15.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals
Playoffs: 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals
Well, Ed Davis and Jon Leuer aren’t Zach Randolph. Defensively Davis miles better than Randolph has even been, but he lacks the frame to battle with Griffin underneath the basket. And Blake has to notably to advantage of this whether it be in post-ups or face-up’s near the basket. And Leuer? Well, he’s fundamentally sound, but lacks the foot speed and strength to combat with Blake. There’s no reason for a dominant performance from Blake unless David Joerger sicks Kosta Koufos on him. And even then…