LOS ANGELES–For a lengthy stretch in April it appeared the Clippers were bound to wrap up home court in the first round of the playoffs. But after L.A. stumbled in three of its final four games of the regular season, the Grizzlies snatched home court advantage, entering the best of 7 series with a six-game winning streak.
The Clippers took it back in Game 1, overcoming a 27-point deficit to win a 99-98 thriller. Now, with the teams tied at one game apiece and the scene shifting to Staples Center Saturday afternoon, the Clippers are in position to regain control of the series.
“Game 3 puts us back in the driver’s seat,” point guard Chris Paul said. “You know, in the playoffs it’s all about controlling your home court. We went there and got one and now we’ve got to take care of our home court.”
LAST TIME OUT
Grizzlies 105, Clippers 98 (Series tied, 1-1): The Clippers started Game 2 with a 16-9 run to open the game. Memphis did not generate a field goal until a Mike Conley layup at the 3:41 seconds into the first quarter. However, the Grizzlies earned a decisive advantage on the offensive glass (16-4), made 18 more free throws, and forced 21 turnovers on their way to evening the series Wednesday at FedEx Forum. For the Clippers, shooting 56.7% for the game and making 9 of their 16 3-point attempts wasn’t enough to overcome their miscues and Memphis’ play around the rim.
“I thought we shot it well enough, but we got too many shots on the clock, and our turnovers, and overall, just the rebounds,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We gave a couple off free-throws, and just some long rebounds and some turnovers really bothered us.”
Paul finished with a game-high 29 points (10-of-17 shooting), six assists, and five steals, and Blake Griffin added 22 points and nine rebounds of his own. The Grizzlies matched the Clipper All-Stars with six players in double figures scoring and 32 points off the bench. Rudy Gay led Memphis with 21 points on 9-of-13 from the field, including a reverse dunk in transition. RECAP
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REVISITING THE SCOUTING REPORT, PART 2
Round One Scouting Report (prior to Game 1): Click here
Prior to the start of the series, Clippers.com talked with a Western Conference front office executive and an advance scout from an opposing team to get a read on the Clippers’ matchup with the Grizzlies. Again, here are a few key sections of the scouting report with notes on how they played out so far.
It will be important for L.A. to make 3-pointers all series and force the Grizzlies to stay on the shooters: The Clippers made nine of their 16 3-pointers (56.3%) in Game 2 to earn a 21-point advantage from beyond the arc. However, the Grizzlies countered the Clippers with 18 more free throw makes and a 16-4 edge on the offensive glass. Throw in 21 Clippers turnovers for 25 Memphis points and 46 points in the paint and the Grizzlies nearly led nearly every other significant statistical category. In a way, making 3-pointers merely kept the Clippers in a game that would have otherwise been lopsided.
The first line of defense is a good offense. It allows you to be able to set up your defense much better: A lot of the talk after Game 2 was how the Grizzlies were able to outmuscle the Clippers. However, the Clippers’ problems on the glass were compounded by their 21 turnovers. Memphis nabbed 13 steals, which as alluded to in the scouting report is deadly against a team that can get out on the break in live ball situations. Paul committed five turnovers on Wednesday and has nine in the series. After Friday’s practice he said it’s a matter of cleaning up their mistakes and getting back to playing like the team that averaged just 13.3 turnovers per game in the regular season (second fewest in the league).
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“That’s why we’re not that worried,” Paul said. “We’ve done things that are uncharacteristic of ourselves, so it all just comes back to playing better.
“If you look at turnovers, I know every one of them that I’ve gotten and a couple of them have been bad decisions. I threw one to Blake in transition, where I just lobbed it to the other team. Nobody affected it. It’s just a bad decision on my part.”
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Nick Young vs. O.J. Mayo
The battle of the benches goes much deeper than the two athletic, mercurial shooting guards, but in the first two games Young and Mayo drove their respective teams’ second units. In Game 1, it was Young making three 3-pointers in succession as part of the Clippers’ historic comeback. He also scored 10 points in the first half when Caron Butler was the only other Clipper who could get it going.
In Game 2, Young (who is 6-of-7 from deep in the series) made all three of his 3-point attempts and finished with 11 points, but Mayo topped him, scoring 20, making all six of his free throws and making two steals. Late in the third quarter, after Paul drilled a 3-pointer to pull L.A. to within two, Mayo answered with a contested 3-pointer of his own and then hit a tough leaner on the right wing on the next possession to make it 76-69.
Paul’s five steals in Game 2 were the most by a Clipper in a Playoff Game since Ron Harper made six takeaways on May 8, 1997… Bobby Simmons started Game 2 for the Clippers in place of Butler (hand). It was the first start for Simmons since Nov. 13, 2009… The Grizzlies made 31 of their 39 free throws in Game 2, compared to the Clippers going 13-for-18 from the line. On Friday, Griffin said there’s a not a large margin for error between playing an aggressive, physical style and avoiding foul trouble. “It’s tough. It’s a fine line sometimes. I think it’s just about being more aggressive, really, and kind of taking it to them first. And not having to pick that up halfway through the game or halfway through the first quarter. Just really being the team who attacks first.”
Paul agreed that the free throw disparity needs to change in Game 3.
“We’ve got to get more physical,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get to the free throw line more and cut down on theirs. We came out aggressive, but I don’t think we sustained it for 48 minutes. Hopefully, we can do that at home.”
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