The Clippers controlled their own destiny going into last night’s game, but now they’ll have to hope Memphis has a similar collapse. Here’s my Lob City Ledger from ESPNLA.com from the regular season finale:
No Chris Paul? The probable Defensive Player of the Year (Tyson Chandler) covering him? No problem. Blake Griffin got his buckets by going straight into the body of Chandler at the rim, beating him multiple times in single coverage with his combination of strength and quickness. The Knicks’ help defense (and fouls at the rim) eventually tamed the beast, but Griffin should be rolling into the playoffs with some serious confidence.
Paul wisely sat out the regular-season finale to rest his injured groin. With home-court advantage waiting to be locked up, Eric Bledsoe did an admirable job filling in defensively, but the Clippers’ offense struggled to have any success outside of post-up opportunities with Griffin and the ensuing kickouts to open shooters. Without CP3, the Clippers’ offense goes from vanilla to just plain.
The Clippers have grown accustomed to letting Paul set the table, but Randy Foye made the transition to an expanded offensive role look seamless. Foye aligned himself with his star in Griffin and fired away with no hesitation when open looks came his way. It’s troubling that Caron Butler was missing in action offensively, but credit Foye for recognizing he was the only player outside of Griffin who had it going.
Bad news first: The Clippers may have lost home court, and Carmelo Anthony’s dominance of Butler might be a sign of things to come with Rudy Gay on deck. As Melo proved at the left elbow repeatedly, the Clippers just don’t have the personnel to stop 6-foot-8 scorers. The good news? Griffin is playing his best offensive ball of the year, and Memphis doesn’t exactly have someone to stop him, either.
Which team needed to win this game again? The Knicks built up a huge lead, but then sat their stars in what appeared to be an effort to avoid Miami in the first round. The Knicks practically begged the Clippers to come back and secure home court, but the Clippers wouldn’t oblige. Yeah, the Knicks passed the test, but I’d still like to see them after class for that fourth quarter.