The Memphis Grizzlies come into Sunday’s game with brimming confidence. Before the game, Grizzlies’ head coach Lionel Hollins portrays his team as a cohesive group of guys who have taken it upon themselves to have impromptu film sessions and to call out counters on the floor when the first offensive option isn’t working. The manifestation of all this was witnessed the other night when Memphis blew Portland out of the Rose Garden.
For the Clippers, Memphis represents a particularly dangerous challenge because the Grizzlies lead the world on the offensive boards. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Grizzlies had collected over a third of available rebounds off their own misses. Meanwhile, the Clippers rank 29th out of 30th on their defensive glass.
It’s completely counter-intuitive then to look down at the box score at halftime to see that the Clippers have given up only a single offensive board, while grabbing eight of their own.
The only thing that’s stranger?
The Clippers trail by 15.
Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay are the primary assailants. The Clips haven’t had an answer for Gay on the wing in the teams’ previous two meetings. And the Clips, while not a bad defensive team when up against more traditional drive-and-kick schemes, have trouble when offenses swirl around a high post threat like Gasol. Kaman’s head ends up on a swivel, but his reaction time is a beat behind the game, and the entire Clippers’ defense breaks down. Memphis also outperforms its shot selection. In the first half, Baron Davis runs underneath screens for both Mike Conley and Jamaal Tinsley — which seems sensible. Unfortunately, the Memphis point guards burn the Clippers, going 8 for 11 in the first half for 18 points.
Most of all, the Clippers are just plain soft.
“What I told them at halftime was, ‘Look, [the Grizzlies] are just too comfortable out there,’” Mike Dunleavy said after the game. “You’re letting these guys stare the basket in the eye.”
It takes another 13 minutes or so, but the Clippers begin to knock the Grizzlies off their spots. The Clips challenge every screen, outwork the Grizz for defensive position, and display quick feet on every pick-and-roll. They outscore Memphis 33-7 in the fourth quarter and surge to a 10-point victory.
With all due respect to the 33, it’s the 7 that’s most impressive for the Clips.
Here’s how it plays out in the fourth: