So far, the Clippers-Grizzlies first round series has been just about as evenly matched as we thought it would be heading in.
Of course, there was LA’s miraculous 27-point comeback to steal game one, followed by Memphis taking a must-win game two at home, and Saturday, the Clippers were able to hold on for a one-point win to take the lead in the series 2-1.
The only true difference to this point has been the play of the respective benches, most notably, the Clippers’ Reggie Evans.
Evans has spearheaded Clipper comebacks in games one and three with his junkyard dog style, mucking things up for Memphis on both ends of the floor with his ball denial and activity on the glass. Memphis, somewhat surprisingly, has had no answer for his energy.
One key for the Clippers in game four will be to get more production out of their starting unit. Memphis has one of the more well-rounded starting groups in the league, and, for the most part, they’ve outplayed the Clippers’ starters so far.
Blake Griffin was able to enjoy some success offensively against Zach Randolph early in game three, scoring eight points in the first quarter. However, he compiled nine over the course of the final three quarters, as Memphis adjusted a bit, using the bigger Marc Gasol more in the post against him. As we know, Blake tends to struggle when faced with a height disadvantage. Instead of being able to just bully his way to the bucket, Griffin needs to use his quickness to his advantage against the slower-footed Gasol.
Chris Paul looking for his own shot early in the game would also be a spark for LAC. Often, Paul will look to get shots for his teammates early, picking his spots as the game progresses to score himself. Asserting himself as a scoring threat early in the game would help keep the Grizzlies honest defensively, forcing them to pick their poison.
Due to the defensive effectiveness of the Evans/Kenyon Martin combo, DeAndre Jordan has seen his minutes dwindle as the series has progressed, going from 26 in game one to just 18 (largely ineffective) minutes in game three. Fortunately for the Clippers, Memphis (for some reason) hasn’t taken advantage of the difficult matchup Marc Gasol presents offensively, so Jordan’s services haven’t been necessary.
A key for Memphis will be offensive production off-the-bench. Outside of Quincy Pondexter’s 11 points on 4-5 shooting, Memphis got zero from the reserves in game three. Head coach Lionel Hollins made the puzzling decision to keep riding the struggling OJ Mayo (1-8, four points) in the stead of defensive stalwart Tony Allen, who is theoretically one of the few players on the roster that can give Chris Paul some problems. Marreesse Speights getting minutes is great news for the Clippers, as well. You know, because he’s quite awful.
As we’ve seen already, anything can happen in this series. It’s been (by far) the most entertaining first round series, as the seven others are all either 3-0, 3-1, or, in the case of the Thunder and Mavericks, already over with.
Tip-off tonight will be at 7:30 PT.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.