Game 2 Preview: L.A. Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies earned home court advantage on the last day of the regular season when they defeated the Orlando Magic for their 11th straight home win. They were set to open their first round playoff series versus an inexperienced L.A. Clippers squad, only a year removed from their historic and unexpected first round series win against San Antonio. And wouldn't you know it? They came out firing on all cylinders. The Grizzlies had nailed 11 three point shots in this game - two more than their season high - and had completely demoralized their opponent; or so they thought. The Grizz took a 58-39 lead into halftime while the crowd waved their towels and wore the arena-provided t-shirts with prie and glory. The third quarter was more of the same as Memphis built a 21 point lead heading into the final period, feeding off of the intense energy their crowd brought to the Fed Ex Forum. The core entering the final period was 85-64, Grizzlies. They even built up a 95-71 lead with just over nine minutes left in Game 1. 24 point lead. Evaporated. Dismantled. The Clippers put together the largest comeback in NBA history to thwart the home team and crowd and steal home court. Demoralized.
Heading into game two, one has to wonder if this epic game damaged the home team's psyche. Can a team really recover from something like this? The Clippers played hard for a grand total of 9 minutes. The Grizzlies thoroughly outplayed, outshot, outdefensed the Clippers for 39 minutes and still came up short. The Memphis players feel as though all they need to do is equal what they did for the first 39 minutes and all will take care of itself.
"There's no magic to it," Gasol said. "We just have to do what we did the first three quarters. If they pressure us...just penetrate and run down the clock and play our game."
That sounds a little like someone is hurting. Everyone came out with the stat that night that there were three teams in NBA history who suffered a loss like this and still advanced to the NBA Finals - giving those Grizzlies enthusiasts a glimmer of hope, like they had God on their side, but in this case it's another NBA team's history. Which means nothing whatsoever.
The Grizzlies can play the with same gameplan, but remember - they hit a season high 11 three-point shots, which most likely translates into a one time thing. The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 54-38 in the paint. But the best part about Game 2 for L.A. is that the Clippers look up at the scoreboard and it reads 0-0.
"We don't have to play from 24, 27 down," Chris Paul said.
It is almost certain that this comeback is a one-time thing as well - the Clippers need to close out shooters and play better defense from the start. They will also be without starting SF, Caron Butler who has a fractured metacarpel in his non-shooting hand. He will be re-evaluated when the team returns to L.A. on Thursday, but it is assumed he will at least miss the remainder of this series. Nick Young will most likely start in his place and Bobby Simmons will now see crucial bench minutes in Game 2.
Having gone up 1-0 in the series, the Clippers have re-established home court advantage. They traveled to Memphis for a split, but they now have a golden opportunity to kick them while they're down. The Grizzlies will be playing with an extra amount of pressure tonight, as their fans have been waiting to secure first round home court since the franchise relocated from Vancouver to Memphis. Putting themselves in an 0-2 hole heading to Los Angeles would be less than ideal. L.A. can look to exploit their over-exertion and use their agressive play to force them into bad possessions and turnovers. The Grizzlies will come out of their home tunnel ready, but will their internal faces read something different? Will the demoralized Rudy Gay emerge or will the Rudy that Memphis fans have come to love show up? Will Zach Randolph have a better night from the field? Will Mike Conley be able to repeat his 5-5 from beyond the arc performance? The fact that these questions are at the forefront is alarming for the home squad. But at the same time, salvaging a win is necessary. This might as well be the elimination game for the Grizzlies. And the Clippers need to treat it the same way - because if you manage to kick your opponent when he is down, he is not going to get back up.
Game 2 is scheduled for 6:30 PST/9:30 EST.