Tonight is the match-up we’ve all been waiting for: Clippers’ Opening Night. The Memphis Grizzlies seek revenge against the Clippers at Staples Center, in a rematch of the heated seven-game series that undeniably tested L.A.’s heart and grit. The game is on Prime Ticket (FSW2) at 7:30 p.m. PT. ClipperBlog’s Jovan Buha, D.J. Foster and Andrew Han preview the game.
1) What makes the 2012-13 Clippers better than the team that beat the Grizzlies in seven games last May?
Jovan Buha: They’re deeper and more versatile. Last year’s bench was one-dimensional; it was made up of specialists. The Clippers shored up their already impressive backcourt, added proven talent on the wings and addressed their issue of a space-the-floor big (Odom, if he’s up to par). Throw in chemistry, continuity and a full training camp, and this team is considerably better than last year’s ball club.
D.J. Foster: Time and timing. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan benefit simply by getting a year older and having more time to work on the little things, like smart dives to the rim and better hedges. And for CP3 and the bigs, developing better timing and eliminating the guesswork in the pick-and-roll should make it an even deadlier weapon.
Andrew Han: In a vacuum, a lot. The Clippers aren’t fielding as many one-dimensional players. The talent is more evenly distributed and not loaded in the backcourt. There is legitimate wing depth, although it’s ironic that the Clippers open the season with none apparent [Matt Barnes is suspended and Grant Hill is injured].
2) A key to the playoff series was the Clippers’ ability to match Memphis’ physicality. As currently constituted, are they still capable of winning that way?
Buha: No. This team doesn’t have the bruisers it did last year (see Evans, Reggie and Martin, Kenyon). Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins are decent back-up pieces, but neither is as skilled or talented as the aforementioned big men. Not to mention, as rough either. The Clippers will have to rely on their offensive firepower and improved defensive schemes to eke out a close win over a talented Grizzlies team.
Foster: Nope. Like Andrew Han noted in his wonderful primer, this team sort of traded their brawn for brains. Guys like Lamar Odom aren’t outworking anybody, but the offense should feature less questionable decisions and (gasp) some actual smart off ball-player movement. Defensively, though? I definitely have my concerns.
Han: Not likely. The keys to winning the series against the Grizzlies was timely 3-point shooting and Greco-Roman wrestling. The 2012-13 iteration gave up some outside shooting for more versatility. Turiaf and Hollins might be able to fill the wrestling roles of Martin & Evans, but this is a team looking to win with more chess moves than bodyslams.
3) True or False: It is important for the Clippers not to be trailing by 23 points entering the 4th quarter. (Who wins tonight?)
Buha: True. If they trail by that much again, I don’t think there’ll be a second magical comeback. However, the Clippers are a much-improved team, and if anything, Memphis has taken the slightest of steps backward. The Clippers defeat the Grizzlies 107-101.
Foster: Oh Reggie, I miss you already. Here’s what I think happens tonight — Memphis plays too aggressive, gets in foul trouble, and gets in a hole they can’t dig out of. The game turns into a free throw contest and the Clippers ice it, 104-97.
Han: I reject the question. It’s important not to be down by 23 points at any point ever. Even if it’s not basketball. I’ll predict the Clippers win as Memphis tries to get in order its backup guard situation.