In preparation for their first round meeting with the Grizzlies in the playoffs, we invited Chip Crain and Red Coleman from the TrueHoop Network’s famed Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue to run a little 5-on-5 with some of our guys. Let’s hear your thoughts and predictions in the comments section.
1. Were there any important lessons learned from the regular season matchups between these two teams?
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue: The first matchups in LA, the Grizzlies were a shadow of the team they are now. The Grizzlies were in the middle of long road trips. In Memphis the Grizzlies were playing their best ball of the season having just defeated Miami on the road. Everything changes now in the playoffs. Any lessons learned are worthless now.
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: The only important lesson I took away was from the Clippers loss at Memphis. They took a 17 point deficit and went on a 19-5 run late in the game. Too little to late then, but it showed the Clippers can score on a vaunted Grizzlies defense and that Memphis, at times, struggles to put the ball in the basket.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Not really. The rosters looked different than they are now (the Clippers are without Chauncey Billups, the Grizzlies have Zach Randolph back), so it’s tough to tell. One thing that sticks out, though, is that the Clippers managed to keep their turnovers down (16, 11 and 10 in three games) against an exceptional defensive group.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: I think we can look at the regular season matchups and see that both teams seem to be able to contain one another. The Clippers will generally need some secondary offensive contributors, and the Grizzlies need to limit those while getting good work from Gasol and Gay (and with Z-Bo back, him too). No surprises.
Red Coleman, 3 Shades of Blue: Both teams are good at home. That’s the biggest thing that I took away from the regular season, as the home team was the victor in all three games.
2. What’s the biggest personnel mismatch in this series?
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue: DeAndre Jordan and Marc Gasol: Jordan is a developing center but Marc Gasol in his prime. Gasol can pass, can score out to 15 feet and is among the league leaders in blocked shots. Jordan is a rookie in the playoffs while Gasol stepped up his game in last year’s playoffs. For Memphis to advance Gasol has to play big.
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: I’m going with Rudy Gay. Chris Paul is the engine of the Clippers and Marc Gasol facilitates the offense for the Grizzlies, but Gay has the ability to shutdown any of the Clippers’ wing players. On top of that, if Rudy takes over offensively, the Clippers already shaky perimeter defense may just collapse.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Rudy Gay against Caron Butler. Individual matchups can only tell us so much, but considering how weak the Clippers’ defensive rotations have been, this mismatch could really stick out. Butler is slow-footed at this point and gives up a couple inches to one of the bounciest wings in the league. Unless he can be physical with Gay, Caron could be in for a long series.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: It’s probably Rudy Gay-Caron Butler/whoever is playing the 3 for the Clippers. Gay has more or less recovered from his mediocrity (by his standards) earlier this season, and we know that he can take advantage of a mismatch on offense and he’ll likely be able to freelance off-ball against Caron defensively.
Red Coleman, 3 Shades of Blue: Honestly, I see it as the benches. The Grizzlies have proven scorers in their prime to spell their starting unit, while the Clippers are relying on contributions from players at the end of their careers mostly.
3. What wins out: The Clippers ability to limit turnovers, or the Grizzlies ability to force them?
Chip Crain, 3 Shaded of Blue: I want to say the turnovers but Chris Paul is just too good with the ball especially in the playoffs. Memphis can’t count on easy baskets in this series. The same is true of the Clippers however as Lob City will likely struggle against the Grizzlies strength inside.
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: The Clippers ability to limit turnovers. In the three regular season meetings, the Clippers consistently won the turnover battle. Additionally, the Grizzlies are an average team at protecting the ball. So their own errors will negate the few turnovers Memphis does cause against the Clippers.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Like the series in general, it all depends on Chris Paul. If he is near full-strength, I would expect it to go like the regular season, where CP3 controls the tempo and turnovers are not an issue for the Clips. If the law firm of Bledsoe, Williams and Foye is asked to represent the Clipper backcourt, you might want to cover your eyes.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: Over the course of the series, I think it’ll be the Clippers’ ability to limit turnovers. The Grizzlies can certainly mix things up over a series, but it’s hard to limit Chris Paul’s ability to control a game in the playoffs. I’m willing to put my trust in Paul on this one.
Red Coleman, 3 Shades of Blue: Given how well the Grizzlies are playing defense right now, I think you have to give them a slight edge in imposing their will upon the Clippers’ offense.
4. Who or what is the X-Factor in this series?
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue: Quincy Pondexter. QPon has been the Grizzlies second best perimeter defender this season but went down with a knee injury in game 65. How ready he is for the playoffs will go a long way in determing how effective the Grizzlies defense will be and by extension their success.
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: The ‘Four-Shooter’ of the Clippers (Mo, Foye, Butler, Young) vs. OJ Mayo. If Mayo gets hot, it adds the outside shooting dimension that would make the Grizzlies a serious title threat. Conversely, if Paul is able to load a chamber of the ‘Four-Shooter’, the Clippers can blitz even the best teams with a barrage of buckets.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Zach Randolph. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect a performance reminiscent of his 2011 playoff run, but if he’s operating on the low block like he can, that offense becomes really dangerous. I’m more interested to see how he defends Blake Griffin, who is coming off of back-to-back eye-opening offensive performances against All-League defenders, Josh Smith and Tyson Chandler.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: I’d say ball pressure on defense. I already said I’m counting on Chris Paul to guide the Clippers through offensively, but if the Clippers can’t stop the Grizzlies from putting in easy entries to Zach Randolph, as well as force Marc Gasol to do more than just catch and shoot, they could still be in trouble. I’m also wondering how Blake will perform against the Grizzlies over the course of a series, so that’s like a Z-Factor.
Red Coleman, 3 Shades of Blue: Chris Paul. He’s the best player, he’s playing the most important position, and he’s the one guy that scares the living daylights out of me as a fan of the opposing team.
5. Let’s hear the predictions. Who ya got, and in how many games?
Chip Crain, 3 Shades of Blue: If the Grizzlies are the home team I see them winning in 5. If they have to start out on the road it could be 6 games. The Grizzlies team experience, deeper team and crazy fans will carry Memphis to victory in the series.
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: I’m going to stick with the prediction that the Clippers win, 4-2. I know Chris Paul has a mild groin strain, and this is a very good Grizzlies team (who I’d pick over a lot of other teams). But I just feel like Memphis is scaring everyone with the specter of last season’s achievements.
Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: Even without home court advantage, I think the Clippers take it in 6, behind some never-before-seen playoff intensity from DeAndre Jordan and a monster series from Blake Griffin. If Paul is hobbled, Grizzlies in 5.
Nick Flynt, ClipperBlog: I’ll pick the Clippers in 6 games. I’ve become less sure of the team making it out of the first round as I hear the criticisms and see the continued iffyness on D, but I still feel confident that enough role players have improved over the course of the season to get this team through to the 2nd round.
Red Coleman, 3 Shades of Blue: I think the Grizzlies will be able to play the same physical, playoff-type basketball they did last spring and their overall team effort will result in a series win in…..6 games.