CLIPPERS-GRIZZLIES GAME FOUR PREVIEW
Eric Patten (@ericpatten) | 5/7/12
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LOS ANGELES–The Clippers-Grizzlies first round series has been both unpredictable and unbelievable.
Two games were decided by one point, including a Clipper comeback for the ages, the cities have been dueling via their local newspapers, and the teams, with their contrasting styles, look that they’re becoming more agitated with one another as the series has progressed.
That’s part of the backdrop to Monday night’s Game 4 at Staples Center, which has become much more than nicknames.
“Grit and Grind.” “Lob City.” “Grind Forth.” “Rise L.A.”
They’re all applicable, but as the series intensifies and the level of physicality increases, it will become about survival. No one exemplifies this idea more than Caron Butler, who was called “crazy” by teammate Chris Paul for playing Game 3 with a fractured left hand.
Butler scored four points in just over 22 minutes, but it was his presence and what it symbolized that mattered most: the physical toil and effort it will take to advance.
“Every game’s going to get a little more physical probably,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said following practice Sunday. “But we can’t get into that we just have to be very sound in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 87, Grizzlies 86 (Clippers lead series, 2-1): The Clippers, hosting their first playoff game since 2006, survived 17 missed free throws and a wayward 3-pointer by Rudy Gay as time expired to take a 2-1 lead in the series. The game went back and forth throughout as the Clippers, behind a spirited crowd at Staples Center, worked their way to a 13-point lead early in the second quarter, only to have the Grizzlies answer with a double-digit run of their own.
Memphis took a seven-point lead into the fourth, but Chris Paul led the Clippers down the stretch, scoring seven of his team-high 24 points in the final period and dropping a perfectly timed bounce pass to a cutting Blake Griffin for a dunk on the baseline to make it 84-80. Two minutes earlier, Randy Foye (16 points) dribbled into a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game as the shot clock wound down.
“The main key was not on the stat sheet,” Foye said, referring to the Clippers 13-of-30 performance from the foul line and 17 turnovers. “We just continued to fight, regardless if we were down by 10 or up by 10 [points].”
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Still, with 12.9 seconds left Gay shaved a six-point deficit in half with a 3-pointer and Eric Bledsoe and Reggie Evans combined to miss 3-of-4 free throws. Gay drilled another three from straightaway over Kenyon Martin and after Bledsoe missed a pair of free throws on the other end, Gay had a chance to win it at the buzzer. With the teams scrambling back, Conley kicked the ball to Gay, who missed a double-clutch shot from the wing with Foye contesting from the side. RECAP
LOOKING AHEAD –Through the first three games the Clippers have preached the need to protect the ball, but they’ve committed 17 or more miscues in all three games, including 17 leading to 23 Memphis points in Game 3. The Clippers averaged just 13.3 per game in the regular season (second fewest in the league).
Del Negro said it’s something they talked about at length Sunday, particularly limiting the live-ball turnovers.
“They convert [steals] so easy into points,” Del Negro said. “We have to do a better job in making sure we get back and our transition defense at times [Saturday] was better I thought. They do an excellent job getting out, creating turnovers, and then really converting on them, so we have to watch that more than anything.”
Game 3 was the first postseason home game for the Clippers since 2006 and according to Del Negro and Nick Young, who is 7-for-10 from 3-point range in the series, the crowd played a role in the victory.
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“No question our crowd had a big factor yesterday and we expect them to have a big factor tomorrow,” Del Negro said. “That’s the advantage to having home court, you have to feed off that. But it comes down to you have to make plays in the fourth quarter.”
Much like Foye and Griffin on Saturday, Young said the crowd was “unbelievable.”
“It was crazy,” Young added. “Just seeing the crowd and how they came out and the smoke and the videos we had playing. It felt good.”
MATCHUP TO WATCH
DeAndre Jordan vs. Marc Gasol
Jordan and Gasol were somewhat limited by foul trouble in Game 3, but despite Jordan’s underwhelming statistical production he’s held his own against the big bodied Gasol. In Game 2, with Jordan playing 25 minutes matched up with the Spaniard, he played a significant role in holding Gasol to 3-for-9 from the field. Jordan’s also played with more aggressiveness since getting past what he admitted were “jitters” prior to making his playoff debut last week.
In three games, Jordan has seven blocked shots. He averaged 2.05 blocks per game in the regular season (fourth in the league). Gasol is scoring 11 points per game in the series on 12-for-24 shooting (50%). He’s also grabbed 7.0 rebounds per game.
NOTES - According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Clippers’ 43.3% (13-for-30) performance from the line in Game 3 was the worst free throw percentage in a playoff game in NBA history by a team with at least 30 attempts. The Grizzlies were +33.6% in free throw percentage for the game. Since the inception of the shot clock in 1954-55, no team has outshot its opponent by such an extreme margin and lost a postseason game… The Clippers bench has outscored the Grizzlies 95-89 and is averaging 31.6 points per game. They averaged 24.6 points per game in the regular season… Both Clipper wins in the series have come by one point. In the regular season, L.A. was 2-2 in such games.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.”
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