Two teams with similar strengths are the only repeat from last season when it comes to first round series, as the Los Angeles Clippers, holding the home court advantage, take on the Memphis Grizzles after both teams finished with identical records.
Both teams do the same things very well – create turnovers and prevent from teams to score in the paint. The only real difference is the Grizzlies probably have a better stable of individual defenders along the perimeter, especially in their starting three – Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince, while the Clippers have a much better bench when it comes to offensive ability.
Oh, and there’s Chris Paul. The only real superstar in this series, if the gentlemen Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Blake Griffin will forgive me. Paul has done pretty well against the Grizzlies this season, averaging 16.3 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 47.2% from the field in a season series that went to the Clippers (3-1), giving them the home court advantage for this best of 7 battle.
And that might be the crucial difference when it comes down to it – the Grizzlies have bodies to throw at Paul and make life difficult for them, but can’t shut him down completely without giving up something to Blake Griffin, Caron Butler or when Jamal Crawford is on the floor next to him. As good as their defense is, not having the defensive answer isn’t the problem – playing in a “team” environment often leaves teams without that one player who can take over late in games.
The seeds of Blake Griffin’s development began a year ago, when the Clippers surprised many by beating the Grizzlies in 7 games. The defense, the versatility and hustle on offense, the ability to try and find players instead of always being a last stop. Griffin doesn’t have the numbers he’s had during his first two years in the league, but there’s really no need anymore. He’s a better player for doing everything better and not just making his way into highlight reels.
Predictions – This is another one of the series that aren’t going to have teams running away with it and scoring too many points. It’s going to be a grind, with moments of someone taking over from time to time. In game 1, Chris Paul is likely to be that person at one stage or another, giving the Clippers the slight edge.