PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 25, 2013
Tipoff: 6:30 p.m. PT | FedEx Forum | Memphis, TN | Game Notes »
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MEMPHIS – The Clippers took care of their home court, now they’re looking to take control of their best-of-seven first-round series as it shifts to Memphis for Games 3 and 4 beginning Thursday night.
“We’re in the thick of it now,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “You work all season to get home court and we took advantage of that the first couple of games. We’ve been a good road team all year. We’ve won there recently and we’ve won there in the playoffs so we know what it’s going to take.”
The Clippers have also played well of late, winning the first two games of the series with the Grizzlies, including a dramatic two-point victory at Staples Center two days ago, and nine in a row overall.
When asked about it, though, veteran Chauncey Billups said the games before the playoff opener were insignificant. “It’s a two-game winning streak,” he said emphatically. “The preseason’s over with.”
The rest of the team has adopted a similar mentality to Billups and Lamar Odom, players with more than 250 combined playoff games played in their careers and two of four players on the roster with at least one NBA championship. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have frequently said the regular season and the team’s success in that portion of the schedule matters not.
“It might help as far as confidence,” Griffin said. “But in the playoffs it’s not really about those kind of numbers. It’s about who comes to play and it’s about executing and about making plays down the stretch.”
LAST TIME OUT
Paul’s fourth-quarter magic hit an all-time high Monday as he scored the final eight points for the Clippers, including a wondrous runner between Tony Allen and Darrell Arthur with one-tenth of a second remaining to break a 91-all tie. He finished with 24 points, nine assists and four rebounds and was one of three Clippers to score at least 10 points in a single quarter. Jamal Crawford, who finished second in the NBA in points per game off the bench during the regular season, scored 11 points in the second quarter, while Griffin had 13 of his 21 points in the first.
The offensive balance was enough to curtail a career game from Mike Conley, who had 28 points and nine assists, and a Grizzlies comeback from nine points down in the final half of the period. It was the ninth win a row for the Clippers dating back to Apr. 3 of the regular season.
“It’s funny because the games can always go one of two ways,” Paul said. “If I don’t make that shot and they make a shot, then everybody’s saying we’re not playing well.”
|GAME 3 FEATURED MATCHUP: DEANDRE JORDAN VS. MARC GASOL
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Defensive adjustments. Conley’s name came up twice during Wednesday’s post-practice media session and it is easy to surmise it came up more than that in the two days off between Game 2 and 3.
“Conley hurt us with his penetration and they hurt us a little in transition,” Del Negro said.
Conley, who is the lone shot-creator in the Grizzlies starting lineup, is 12-for-18 in the series from the paint and 2-for-11 from everywhere else. In Game 2, Conley was effective breaking down the Clippers defense and finishing at the rim.
“We’ve been kind of changing up a few coverages,” Billups said. “We’ll do a few things differently again in Game 3, since Conley’s been so aggressive to this point.”
Del Negro has been using Eric Bledsoe, who is a +17 off the bench in the series while missing just three of his 13 shots, in a variety of ways, including as a defensive specialist to bother the Grizzlies point guard. But the options in the backcourt are somewhat limitless.
A smallish lineup, with some variation of Paul, Bledsoe, Billups and Crawford on the court has been successful in stretches of both games, playing 12 of a possible 96 minutes together in the series so far.
Variety of ways to win. All year, the Clippers have proven capable of winning in a slow-down game as well as the up-tempo style that is so often used to characterize them. In the first two games of the series that has born itself out.
“I think it’s a sign of a good team that you’ve got to win games in the 80s and win ones in the 110 area,” Billups said. “I think we’ve proven that we can do both this year. I think it’s going to be better for us to be able to win games in the 80s and 90s in this series, probably.”
That also has to do with the bench, which at times was intact opposite three or more Grizzlies starters in Game 2. Outside of a Game 1 outburst from Jerryd Bayless and a fourth-quarter run by Darrell Arthur, Memphis has not been able to rely on their reserves. The Clippers have outscored the Grizzlies bench, 79-51 in the series, including 30-11 in Game 2.
Prior to this season, 50 teams have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Only three teams have gone on to lose the series. In NBA history teams with 2-0 series lead in any round of a best-of-seven series has an all-time series record of 233-15 (.940)… The Clippers own an 87-61 rebounding advantage in the series… Tayshaun Prince is 3-for-15 in the two games so far... Billups has scored 20 points or more in Game 3 of a series 10 times in his career, including 32 in 2009 as a member of the Nuggets… The Clippers were a franchise-record 24-17 on the road in the regular season (tied with Memphis for third best in the NBA)…
Paul and Griffin both said after practice Wednesday that the energy and intensity in Game 3 will likely get ramped up a notch.
“Energy’s a big deal, especially on the road,” Paul said. “Their team is probably going to play a little more confident at home and we’ve got to know that. We took care of our court and we want to go down there and win Game 3.”
Griffin added: “We know they’re going to come out extremely ready. We’ve got to match that intensity and really we have to be better and have to exceed their intensity and physicality.”