While much has been made of the Grizzlies and their playoff experience last season, seven of the Clippers’ top 11 rotation players have combined for 209 career postseason games.
“It’s huge [to have guys in the locker room who have been to the playoffs before],” Martin said. “I think it’s going to help, especially for adjustments after the first game. You can tell all the guys what to expect, what to do before Game 1.
“But after Game 1 that’s when all of the adjustments start. We’ve got a few days between games, so that’s the biggest thing, the thing that’s the most important, just using those days to prepare for the next game, win or lose.”
The 34-year-old Martin is a beacon of playoff knowledge. He was a starter on two Finals teams in New Jersey and reached the Western Conference Finals playing 33.6 minutes per game with the Nuggets in 2009.
“I can tell them what it’s going to be like and what to expect, but until you get in it, you don’t know,” said Martin, who’s missed the postseason just twice in his 12-year career. “You just have to be prepared for anything. Nine times out of 10, your ‘A’ move is not going to work because they scouted it and your ‘B’ ain’t going to work, so you’ve got to run plays thoroughly. You’ve got to be precise. We’ve just got to be locked into schemes and tendencies and things like that.”
It’s something that guys like Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Mike Conley learned last year with the Grizzlies as they upset top-seeded San Antonio in round one and took Oklahoma City to the brink in a thrilling seven-game series.
Still, it helps to have veterans who have been through it already, and the Clippers have number of them.
Williams, who has started 25 career postseason games, echoed Martin, saying, “It’s going to change drastically. The intensity and the attention to detail is going to be magnified. It’s something that you can’t get that in the regular season. You have to experience it to get it. It sort of could be a rude awakening at first. It’s just a matter of how fast the young guys adjust to it.”
Career playoff games:
Note: Injured guard Chauncey Billups has appeared in 140 career playoff games, including winning the 2004 NBA championship and making eight consecutive trips to the Conference Finals.
Does it matter if the Clippers haven’t experienced those playoff tests together?
“At the end of the day, you start the games at 0-0,” Paul said. “I couldn’t care less how many games we’ve played in the playoffs and different things like that. When we step out on the court, we’re not going to be like, ‘Man, what’s it like to play in the playoffs?’ You’ve got to play the game.”
Much is expected of Paul, who despite averaging 21.9 points and 11.1 assists in 23 playoff games has never advanced past round two. But to a degree it is guys like Williams and Martin and injured guard Chauncey Billups, as a voice on the bench and calming influence in the locker room, who will aid the younger Clippers early on.
“The experience being there,” Williams said. “Been there, done that. Young guys are going to gain experience this year which will be great. So you’ve got a good half of the guys, myself, Chauncey, Kenyon, Chris, guys like that who’ve been there and played in big playoff games.”
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