PREGAME REPORT | APRIL 20, 2013
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. PT | STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA | Game Notes »
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LOS ANGELES – Once again it’s on.
The Grizzlies and Clippers begin their Western Conference first round rematch Saturday night at Staples Center and they couldn’t be more even.
They both finished the season 56-26, with the Clippers earning home court advantage in the series by way of their Pacific Division championship. They were 24-17 on the road, 32-9 at home and are coming off a heated, four-point Clippers victory in the teams’ regular-season finale in Memphis last weekend.
“Everybody knows what we’re going to run,” Blake Griffin said after Friday’s practice. “We know what they’re going to run. We know tendencies, player tendencies and all that. It comes down to execution and the concentration on the small details.”
The Clippers ended the season with seven consecutive wins, including a 112-108 win at Sacramento in the waning hours of the night Wednesday to ensure home court. But for Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, earning home court is one thing, keeping it is something else.
“Having [home court] and protecting it are two different things,” Del Negro said. “We’ve got to be ready to go tomorrow.
“They had home court last year. Anything can happen.”
He’s referring to the 2012 series in which the Clippers rallied from a 27-point second half deficit to wrestle away home court at FedEx Forum, a place they would return two weeks later to clinch the series.
The stakes are the same this year for the Clippers, who will host Game 1 of a playoff series for only the second time in franchise history (2006, round one versus Denver). And it couldn’t come against a more evenly matched opponent.
“Same record, same everything,” Chauncey Billups said. “Even the games we played them were really close games. It’s going to be a dogfight just like last season. Last playoffs went seven games. I would like for it not to, but the reality is it’s going to be a really good series.”
|GAME 1 FEATURED MATCHUP: CHRIS PAUL VS. MIKE CONLEY|
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
After Friday’s practice, Del Negro said, “In this series it’s about rebounding, it’s about tempo and controlling turnovers, as always.”
Rebounding. Perhaps the key to the series is the battle of the boards. The Clippers and Grizzlies were within at least five rebounds of each other in all four regular season meetings, but overall the Grizzlies were 42-14 when they out-rebounded an opponent. They were also the third best offensive rebounding team in the NBA. They averaged 12.9 offensive boards per game and got double that when the Clippers defeated them in January.
Tempo and turnovers. The Grizzlies play at the second slowest pace in the NBA (91.1 possessions per game), but the Clippers went 12-4 in their 16 games against the six slowest paced teams in the league. While the Clippers have long said their offense starts with their defense they’re more than capable of playing in the half court. That’s what will make Game 1 such a tone-setter. Which team will impose their style of play on the other? Will the Clippers, the second leading team in the NBA in points off turnovers and seventh in fast-break points, avoid letting the Grizzlies bog things down? Or will Memphis, a team that scores 46% of its points in the paint, force their “Grit and Grind” style on the Clippers as they did in L.A. in March when they held the Clippers to 33 points in the second half?
The Clippers and Grizzlies have played 14 times since the beginning of the 2011-12 season. The Clippers are 9-5 in those games… Six Clippers, including Billups, who was injured, remain from last season’s series with the Grizzlies. Memphis has five players back. However, out of the 10 starters for each team, eight of them started Game 7 of the series last year… Neither team is reporting any significant injuries going into Game 1. Del Negro said Billups will limited to around 20 minutes as he works his way back from a strained right groin… The Clippers are a league-best 29-0 when holding a team to 42.0% shooting or worse… The Grizzlies went 15-3 in the regular season when Marc Gasol had a double-double (one loss to the Clippers)… The Clippers are 15-21 all-time in the postseason and have won two playoff series since 2006…
SPEAKING OF EVEN
The Clippers own a 35-34 record in 69 games against the Grizzlies.
Chris Paul, who had two double-doubles in the seven-game series against Memphis last year, was asked if he has a personal dislike for the Grizzlies."I don't know too many of them personally," Paul responded. "I just want to beat you. I don't care about you off the court."