They’ve seen hours of film on the trapping defense that forces a league-best 17 turnovers per game. They’ve heard all about Tony Allen and Mike Conley, the Memphis backcourt duo that snatches 3.98 of the team’s 9.6 steals per night. They’ve been to the perhaps aptly-named “Grind House” before. It was just three weeks ago the Clippers lost there, 94-85.
It’s all part of the talk leading up to the playoffs, the first game in what is widely expected to be a long, gritty series.
“I think we matchup fine,” said Chris Paul, who is expected to start Sunday night after the team limited his practice time over the previous two days with a mild left groin strain.
Almost as though he were making a shopping list, Paul continued, ticking off what the Clippers recognize about the fourth-seeded Grizzlies.
“Try to take care of the ball. They lead the league in steals. Contain Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph. They have a lot of weapons, so we’ve got to come out ready.”
In three games with the Grizzlies in the regular season, the Clippers averaged 13.3 turnovers, the exact number that placed them No. 2 in the league in turnovers committed. In that way, you could argue, the Clippers know exactly who they are, and who they need to be.
“We’ve got to worry about what we’re doing, not so much what they’re doing,” Paul said. “We’re not that bad either.”
After Saturday morning’s practice it seemed like a number of the Clippers were aware of what prognosticators are saying about the series.
“People don’t expect us to win and I think we realize that,” Blake Griffin said. “I hope that we play with that chip on our shoulder a little bit.”
One of the overriding questions is how Griffin and fellow starters DeAndre Jordan and Randy Foye will fare in their first-career playoff series.
“I remember in my first playoff series everybody was telling me what it was going to be like and things like that and my thing was just ‘shut up, let me play,’” Paul said. “Sometimes they make it overdramatic for someone’s first playoff game. You’ve got to go out and play.”
How the trio would respond seemed to be the least of the Clippers’ concerns. They know how well Griffin, Foye, and Jordan have responded in some of the most pressure-packed games this season—wins at Oklahoma City and in Staples Center over Miami, the Lakers, and this pesky Grizzlies team.
Head coach Vinny Del Negro knows it, too.
“I think our guys just need to go out there play with confidence, understand what we need to do and execute,” he said. “You know the game’s going to be a little more physical and obviously it’s going to be a little more aggressive, but I think our guys are looking forward to it and we’ll make our adjustments as the games go on.”
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