CLIPPERS AND GRIZZLIES TO MEET AGAIN IN POSTSEASON
They meet again.
After what amounted to one of the most enthralling first-round series in recent memory during last year’s postseason, the Clippers and Grizzlies are slated for another duel in 2013.
The opening setting has shifted; a sea of red in place of a grindhouse. But a rivalry has already been fueled. It was apparent with the baby bonnets and jeers in Memphis and the impassioned boos from Clippers fans on every low post touch by Zach Randolph.
It helps that both teams enter playing some of their best basketball of the season. Memphis (56-26) has won nine of their last 11 and became the second team in league history to win 56 games and not earn home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Pacific Division champion Clippers (56-26), meanwhile, closed the season with seven straight victories and secured home court over their Bluff City rivals by way of their division title.
The element of home court came down to the final hours of the NBA’s regular season. Memphis defeated the Utah Jazz, 86-70, Wednesday evening, forcing the Clippers to respond with a 112-108 win over the Kings in Sacramento later. So, it will be back to Memphis for the Clippers, but not before playing Game 1 Saturday and Game 2 Monday in a building where they won a franchise-record 32 home games.
“I think our fans will be terrific,” said Jamal Crawford, who will be participating in his third career postseason and first with the Clippers. “They’ll be fired up and ready to go.”
The Clippers have won nine of the last 14 meetings against the Grizzlies, including Game 1 and 7 at FedEx Forum last year and a 91-87 win there Saturday. Asked what the Clippers can take away from their 3-1 season-series advantage, Crawford said, “That it’s going to be tough. There’s no easy way around it. We won 3-1 but it could have [gone] either way. All the games, but one were close.”
While there are distinctions between the two teams since they last met in the playoffs (Tayshaun Prince in, Rudy Gay out, or a revamped bench for the Clippers to name a couple), many of the particulars remain intact.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are there as are Marc Gasol and Randolph, Memphis’ grueling tandem that Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro called perhaps the best “frontcourt duo in the league.”
“We know that team very well,” Chauncey Billups said. “They’re going to play hard. They want to out-execute you. They want to pound you and rebound and throw it to their bigs inside and we’ve just got to be ready for them.”
The series will be a matter of familiarity. And perhaps a matter of dislike. They meet again. In the playoffs. And that’s how rivalries are bred.
2013 PLAYOFF SCHEDULE, CLIPPERS VS. GRIZZLIES
Game 1 – Sat, April 20 Memphis at Clippers 7:30PM
Game 2 – Mon, April 22 Memphis at Clippers 7:30PM
Game 3 – Thu, April 25 Clippers at Memphis 8:30PM
Game 4 – Sat, April 27 Clippers at Memphis 3:30PM
Game 5 * Tue, April 30 Memphis at Clippers TBD
Game 6 * Fri, May 3 Clippers at Memphis TBD
Game 7 * Sun, May 5 Memphis at Clippers TBD