‘NO MAS’: RIVERS HOPES CLIPPERS VS. GRIZZLIES MIRRORS CLASSIC SUGAR RAY BOUT
In explaining the way the Clippers need to play against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers drew an analogy to Sugar Ray Leonard’s famed battles against Roberto Duran.
“We want to play our game,” Rivers said. “We don’t want to be Sugar Ray vs. Duran one.”
In the initial bout between Leonard and Duran, dubbed the “Brawl in Montreal,” Leonard attempted to prove he could defeat the No. 1 welterweight contender at his own game, abandoning the quick and darting style that made him one of the greatest fighters of his generation for Duran’s slower paced, more deliberate style. The June 20, 1980 fight was a remarkable spectacle, but Duran ultimately won via unanimous decision.
Rivers obviously would prefer the Clippers play the role of Leonard in the rematch, when the 1976 Gold medalist and two-time welterweight champion overwhelmed Duran with his speed and buried him the eighth round when Duran succumbed in the final second by way of a technical knockout, turning to referee Octavio Meyran and saying, “No mas” (Spanish for “no more”).
“It’s about pace, so obviously it’s defensive rebounding,” Jared Dudley said. “The number one thing is defensive rebounding it controls the pace and then for them it’s getting them out of their sweet spots, pushing them up the lane and meeting them early in transition, trapping them and not giving them the same looks.”
The front court duos of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph embody the stylistic differences between the teams.
“Their games are old-school type games where they can do a little bit of everything,” Dudley said when asked about the front-court tandems. “With us, it’s got to be about athleticism and using our speed versus them.”
And even as Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger has asked for a more up-tempo offense, the Grizzlies inherently are the same. They have won two games in a row, effectively riding 50 points and 21 rebounds combined from Randolph in the post. Griffin, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in his career, has registered seven 20-point, 10-rebound games in the last nine outings as well.
If last season’s final four games of the Western Conference first round between Memphis and L.A. was the initial fight in Montreal, then it would bode well for the Clippers if Monday is the Leonard-Duran rematch in New Orleans on Sept. 25, 1980 with Griffin playing Leonard to Randolph’s Duran.
That sounded as if it were something Griffin understood after the Clippers were eliminated last season.
“We’re on to a new season and we’re on to new things, but we have to remember the things that we learned from that series,” Griffin said. “I think we have a team that matches up well and we need to do a good job inside, defending, really working our way inside out.”