As things currently sit with just two games remaining in the regular season, the L.A. Clippers are most likely to face-off with the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.
As of Tuesday morning, the Clips are just one half-game ahead of Memphis for the No. 4 seed, with games remaining at Atlanta (tonight) and at New York (Wednesday. The Grizzlies host the Magic for their season finale Thursday.
By virtue of having won the season series 2-1, the Clippers can clinch their spot in the top-four by winning just one of the two remaning games.
Now, just because the Clips were able to take two-of-three from the Grizzlies during the regular season doesn’t necessarily mean this is a favorable matchup for L.A.
Memphis was a major surprise during the postseason last year, easily ousting the No. 1 seeded Spurs in the first round before taking Oklahoma City all the way to seven games in round two.
Other than Dirk Nowitzki, there was no more dominant force during the 2011 Western Conference playoffs than Memphis forward Zach Randolph.
Randolph has played in just 27 games so far this season after missing the beginning of the year coming back from a partial MCL tear. He’s put up fairly pedestrian numbers of 11.5 points and eight rebounds per game while primarily coming off the bench.
If he’s still not 100%, this obviously bodes well for Los Angeles. However, if he can find his rhythm and get his legs back for the postseason, the Clippers really don’t have an answer for him in the post. To be fair, though, few teams actually do.
Another scary thing about the Grizzlies is the fact that they made their postseason run last year without arguably their best player, Rudy Gay. Gay missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury.
He’s back healthy in 2012, and has averaged about 19 points per game.
We’ll surely see plenty of Mike Conley matched up against Chris Paul, but you can bet that defensive stalwart Tony Allen will surely see his fair share of duty trying to check the Clippers’ all-world point guard.
Allen has become one of the very best perimeter defenders in the league, and his gritty style appears to have rubbed off on the rest of the team, as well. Memphis forces a league-best 17.2 turnovers per game, and leads the league in steals.
Fortunately, Paul is about as good as it gets with regards to protecting the basketball.
Memphis has been about as hot as any team of the league of late, unfortunately, having won 15 of their last 19 overall, including five consecutive currently.
While the Clippers have transformed into one of the league’s better road teams, gaining home court advantage is a must against Memphis. They’ve gone 25-7 this season in their home barn.
I’ll get to perhaps the most favorable (slightly) possible matchup, the Denver Nuggets, on Wednesday.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.