Chris Paul vs Grizzlies

In the only repeating series from last season’s playoffs, the Los Angeles Clippers, managing to get the home court advantage in the final few days of the season, will get to play in another physical and possibly long and not-so-pretty against the Memphis Grizzlies, who need to start coming through on all those dark horse compliments and descriptions.

The way the Grizzlies win is obvious to everyone – very strong interior defense, with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the paint, helping create the second best defense in the NBA (the Clippers are 7th), while Tony Allen and Mike Conley hound the perimeter and in this case, Chris Paul.

But the Clippers, who are better than they were a season ago, which is something not necessarily true about Memphis, have ways to counter the usually suffocating defense the Grizzlies use to beat teams into submission, while Tayshaun Prince, no doubt an offensive regression from Rudy Gay, brings over his long long arms, helping create traps in a nearly perfect defensive starting five.

One thing these two teams do better than anyone else in the league is create turnovers – the Clippers lead the league by causing a turnover on 17% of team’s possessions; the Grizzlies follow them with 16.7%. The other things both team do very well is deny points in the paint, ranked second and third in the NBA. Chris Paul, who is one of the few guards who can consistently prove to be a problem for the Grizzlies (despite not playing too well for them this season) in his ability to force them out of their schemes, attacking the basket early, is the game changer in this one, along with the better bench the Clippers have, with someone like Jamal Crawford.

Memphis rely on pushing the ball inside and letting Gasol, the team’s best passer, make the decisions from there. Unless Randolph and someone else can prove enough of a threat from mid-range and further in order to pull Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan away from the basket, it’s going to be long, frustrating games for the Grizzlies offensively. You win in the playoffs with defense, but without anything consistent and trustworthy offensively, it gets a whole of a lot harder.

Predictions – Like last year, Clippers in 7.