It’s common knowledge that the Los Angeles Clippers live and die by the ability of Chris Paul, especially in crunch time. For the second time in this postseason, their best player delivered the goods, by scoring the final points in the fourth quarter, finishing with a game winner that gives his team a promising 2-0 lead.
Before we get to Paul, it’s mandatory to mention what the Clippers are doing on defense, as they climbed to a 2-0 lead behind a 93-91 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, who were much more focused in the final quarter than they were in Game 1. Alas, their inability to find a go to guy hurt them once again, and it looks like it’ll be the difference between playoff success and disappointment for a second straight season.
Marc Gasol averaged 10 points in the paint during the four games with the Clippers in the regular season. He finished with 17 points in game 2 overall, but out of his 33 points in the first couple of games, only 12 have been in the paint. He’s shooting only 42.9% from close range, and the Clippers are being able to keep him out of his comfort spots with both their starters being much more aggressive than usual while Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe lead the second unit with incredible pressure while they’re on the court.
The rest is Chris Paul, who finished with 24 points and nine assists, including the last 8 points for his team, before he made a running jumper with Tony Allen covering him, hitting the shot with only 0.1 seconds left on the clock. The play was reviewed but eventually given to the Clippers, not giving the Grizzlies enough time to get off a final shot.
Mike Conley kept Memphis in the game, scoring 28 points and blowing by Paul on numerous occasions, adding nine assists and 2 steals. The bench, on the other hand, gave only 11 points (nine from Darrell Arthur), while the Clippers built a double digit lead through their subs, adding 30 points, including 15 by Jamal Crawford, who was on the floor for the Clippers’ good minutes with both starters and subs.
Blake Griffin managed to step out of his shell and contribute on the offensive side as well, scoring 21 points, adding 8 rebounds and 4 assists. DeAndre Jordan was huge in the paint getting four rejections, as the Clippers won the rebounding battle for a second time, continuing to subdue Zach Randolph who finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds.
Paul burnt the Clippers most of the time through pick n rolls, scoring more than 50% of his 47 points so far in the series off of that play. Paul was 5 of 5 with all 11 points on those plays in the second win in the second half after going 0 of 1 with a turnover in the first half. Blake Griffin aided him with 3-4 and 6 points on the P&R as the rolling man.
Two teams that are very similar in their strengths, but different in having a reliable go to guy and offensive ability off the bench. Things will look different in Memphis, but not by much. This series, deservedly, is going to the Clippers.