The L.A. Clippers will kick-off the 2013 NBA playoffs Saturday night with a familiar foe invading Staples Center.
The Memphis Grizzlies, who finished at 56-26, the same record as the Clippers, will be trying to exact some revenge after losing a hard-fought first round series to L.A. last season.
Last year, it was the Grizzlies who had home court advantage in the series, and made some rather dubious history. In game one, they blew a 27-point fourth quarter lead as Chris Paul led the Clippers all the way back for an improbable 99-98 win.
There have also been 110 game sevens in the history of the NBA playoffs. The Grizz became just the 22nd team to lose a game seven at home, when a Nick Young-led Clippers bunch went into Memphis and stole an ugly 82-72 game to advance.
Both of the teams have undergone substantial roster turnover since then, but the majority of the core figures remain.
L.A. went 3-1 against Memphis during the regular season, including a big 91-87 win in Memphis on April 13 in what was essentially a “winner take home court” game.
Unlike last season, both teams come into this series with relatively clean bills of health.
The Grizzlies had a less-than-100% Zach Randolph for last year’s series, while the Clippers were without Chauncey Billups, who had missed the majority of the season after rupturing his Achilles.
Memphis also got miserable individual series from Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, respectively, both of whom are now gone. They’ve essentially replaced Gay with Tayshaun Prince, and Mayo with Jerryd Bayless, both of whom have been stellar in Grizzlies uniforms.
The Clippers’ bench has been one of the league’s strongest this season, with the new additions of Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and a fully-healthy Eric Bledsoe.
Memphis is actually a fairly favorable matchup for the Clippers, due to their style of play.
The Grizzlies’ offense, like that of the Clippers, is primarily predicated on high screen-and-rolls.
They also have the bigs in Randolph and Marc Gasol with the ability to step out and hit midrange jumpers, something the Clippers’ offense doesn’t really feature. A challenge for the L.A. defense will be for DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to remember to step out on the 15-foot jumpers from Gasol that are so effective.
L.A.’s primary weakness on defense is defending the three-point line. Fortunately for them, the Grizz don’t feature many good three-point shooters, and they rank in the bottom-10 in the league in team three-point percentage.
Quincy Pondexter, who plays about 20 minutes per game, and Prince are their most dangerous shooters from beyond-the-arc.
The key for the Grizzlies defensively will be to slow the game down and keep the Clippers from getting out and running in the open court.
They certainly have the personnel to match up with the Clippers’ wings, as Tony Allen and Mike Conley are likely the league’s premier defensive backcourt. Down low, they have the aforementioned Gasol, who may be the Defensive Player of the Year this season.
Gasol is a master of angles defensively, and he’ll need to hedge hard on screens to keep Paul from being able to get the midrange elbow jumper that he makes with such efficiency.
The Clippers will also have to be strong on the defensive glass, as the Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the league in terms of nabbing offensive rebounds and creating extra possessions for themselves.
Game one tips off at 7:30pm PT on ESPN.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers.