GAME 1 SHOOT-AROUND REPORT: PRINCE GIVES GRIZZLIES DIFFERENT LOOK
A lot has been made about the history between the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies going into Game 1 of their second-straight opening round series on Saturday night, but the Grizzlies were adamant during their shoot-around at Staples Center that this is series will be a different animal.
“I don’t even think about last year’s series,” Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said. “We looked at some tape to see what we can do against them, what we did and what they did but they’re a different team now. They have a much better bench, much more scoring. I don’t know if their shooting is as great overall as it was last year. Mo Williams and the kid from USC, Nick Young; those guys destroyed us in that game they came back on us but we’re different as well.”
The main lineup difference from last year’s series comes from the Grizzlies at the starting small forward spot. Rudy Gay averaged 19 points and 6.6 rebounds in the seven-game series against the Clippers last year, but he was shipped to the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 30 in a three-team deal that netted the Grizzlies Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye along with a 2013 second-round pick.
Prince torched the Clippers for 18 points on 9-for-15 shooting in the team’s only win against Los Angeles back on March 13 at Staples Center and the 11-year veteran is ready for another postseason go-around after a long absence.
“I’m excited to be back in the playoffs and in a different conference now,” Prince said. “It’s going to be tough for us but we’ll be ready to step up and meet the challenge.”
The matchup at the point is another important factor that could help determine the winner of this playoff rematch. Chris Paul and Mike Conley put together impressive performances last season and Conley followed it up with the best regular season of his career. He set a new career-high in scoring, averaging 14.6 points a game and shattered his own franchise record with 174 steals, an NBA-high.
“Mike’s just getting better,” Hollins said. “I mean players continue to get better as they mature in this league. They keep working and they keep developing. He’s shot the ball better, he’s attacked better and he’s looking to score more.
“He’s just playing at a higher level. He was supposed to be a high-level player when he came in. He was the fourth pick in the draft so it’s not all that surprising except that his jumps have been incrementally each year where some other guys come in and after one year they’re who they are. Mike had to a good job of working on his body and getting stronger and just getting confident against all these guys that he idolized; he came in at 19-years old.”
Despite his great season, the Clippers proved to be his foil this season as he struggled mightily in the three losses to Los Angeles this season. He combined to score 24 points and shot 25% from the field to go along with a rough 1.2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.
“Mike is the guy that controls the tempo of the game and really gets us going,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said. “If he’s pushing it he forces me and Zach to run more and get ahead of the ball and stuff like that and hopefully he’ll be able to do it tonight.”
THEY SAID IT
On Chris Paul’s constant court talk:
Lionel Hollins: “He just talks. ‘That was a good call;’ that was this and that was that. He just talks. I hardly notice unless he comes over and talks to me. I’m not watching or listening to everything he says; he just talks. Our bench talks to him and he talks to them. He’s just talking. He’s not talking trash; ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘you can’t do that;’ it’s nothing like that at all.”
On the playoff atmosphere:
Marc Gasol: “It’s what you want. You want a full crowd, you want the arena as packed as it can and being on the game and that’s the fun part. You don’t want to play when nobody’s watching.”
On his signature defensive play
Tony Allen: “I mainly hang my hat on defense. I’m looking forward to being in the game down the stretch and trying to stick one of those Crawford’s or those Paul’s. That’s where I come in key at.”