Chris Paul didn’t play; Blake Griffin wasn’t even any good. It didn’t stop the Los Angeles Clippers from earning another very convincing win, this time over the Memphis Grizzlies, showing just how deep they are and what a force to be reckoned with they’ll be when the playoffs arrive.
This one went to 7 games last postseason, ending with a somewhat surprising Clippers win. This season the two teams are close, but while the Grizzlies are showing once again a lot of problem on the offensive side of the ball, especially without Rudy Gay, not with the team because of his grandmother’s funeral. Maybe the trade rumors are also having their effect.
Chris Paul, the MVP of the Clippers, especially singe they have re-ignited a new winning streak (already ended), didn’t play for the first time this season. That didn’t stop the Clippers from playing fantastic defense, keeping the Grizzlies at 73 points (losing 99-73) and shooting a very poor 30.3% from the field, by far their worst this season. More worrying is the fact that for the second time, they’ve made less than 40% against the same team, and have shot below 40% for the second consecutive game.
They clogged up the paint on us, make us shoot from outside, make us pass the ball up because they’re doubling as soon as we catch it. They’re coming from every direction, and that makes us pass out to the perimeter.
And just like that, a team that should have at least a little bit of answer to strong interior defense, gave up. The Clippers allowed only 36 points in the paint and made sure that even as the Grizzlies took 24 offensive rebounds (1o by Zach Randolph), the long arms of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan stopped them from taking advantage of that. Jordan finished with 3 rejections, Ronny Turiaf added 2 more off the bench.
And that bench continues to be the thing that separates the Clippers from most of the NBA, except for the Oklahoma City Thunder (best record in the league). Eric Bledsoe had no trouble stepping in for Chris Paul as the starting point guard, scoring 14 points and keeping the pace of the game high, in order to keep the Grizzlies defense off its comfort zone. That’s the key, as James Harden exposed a few weeks back – attack early and deep, and Memphis suddenly don’t look all that difficult to crack.
Actually off the bench it was Matt Barnes (16 points) and Jamal Crawford (16 points as well), two players who should have a very good shot at winning the sixth man of the year award. Grant Hill, finally healthy, is another scary addition to the very deep roster the Clippers have, enjoying the fast pace of his team’s offense and the wide openings in the Grizzlies defense, scoring 8 points and adding 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Don’t expect another 17 game winning streak – the Clippers know that those numbers won’t win them the title. Giving Chris Paul some rest and handing as much playing time as possible to their very capable bench players seems to be more important, and just as efficient in getting wins as is overplaying your starters.