Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Round 2 in Memphis! Ding-ding-ding. Expect a hard-nosed slugfest, with lots of fouls, technicals and almost-altercations. L.A. won Round 1, 101-92 (they also won the playoff series, in case anyone forgot), so expect a blood thirst Grizzlies team . Something to remember: The Clippers will be without Chris Paul and the Grizzlies will be without Rudy Gay. Major advantage for the Grizz.
1. What’s changed for either team since Opening Night?
Jordan Heimer: Oh, you know, not much: the Clippers have emerged as title contenders, Lamar Odom has lost 20 pounds, Rudy Gay and John Hollinger have run into each other at the water cooler and had an extremely awkward conversation, and Eric Bledsoe has pretty much played himself into a 2014 starting job in another city. What hasn’t changed: these two teams do not like each other.
D.J. Foster: The Grizzlies have hit a plateau — we know who they are, we know what they do, and their chances at winning a title haven’t changed much from opening day. They’re capped in more ways then one, and that’s why they’re flirting with the idea of moving Rudy Gay and perhaps Zach Randolph. As for the Clippers? They’re like the little figurine on that Price is Right game with the yodeling in the background — they just keep climbing.
Jovan Buha: The Clippers are better than we thought they were, and the Grizzlies are perhaps a bit worse. L.A. looks the part of a contender and will likely duke it out with OKC for the West’s No. 1 seed. Memphis, on the other hand, still has the same struggles offensively, and is looking to trade Rudy Gay for some spare change. They’re still potent, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise if Golden State or Denver nabbed the four-seed by season’s end.
2. Moniker face-off: Grit ‘n Grind or Lob City?
Heimer: Lob City. And here’s why. As a nickname, Lob City has taken a lot of heat. It conjures up an image of showy basketball where style trumps substance, and flash reigns supreme. But I always thought the coolest thing about Lob City is that Blake Griffin made it up on the spot in the moment he and DJ learned about the Chris Paul trade. Big men writing copy is cool.
Foster: I like Grit ‘n Grind because it reminds me of Tony Allen on Twitter, and that makes me laugh. Grit ‘n Grind also kind of transcends the moniker tag and creeps over into a lifestyle, ya know? I don’t think Chris Paul wakes up everyday and is like, “You know what? I’m gonna throw a bunch of lobs today.” But if he does, that’s cool too. IT’S A TIE!
Buha: Lob City. It’s a bit cheesy, but so are the words “grit” and “grind.” Memphis’ nickname may have more merit behind it — it’s fits their style of play perfectly — but the Clippers’ moniker is brilliant, if only because Griffin said it in the spur of the moment. Still, these are hands down the best monikers for any two teams in the league.
3. Which team would want to see the other less come playoff time?
Heimer: Memphis wants no part of the Clippers in the playoffs. The team that beat the Grizz last year had a second unit that didn’t score, a defense that didn’t rotate, and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were both injured by series end. A rematch would favor LA.
Foster: I think the Grizzlies would prefer a team that’s more reckless with the ball — maybe an Oklahoma City, or a Houston. For a team that uses turnovers as its lifeblood, going up against the best point guard and game manager in the league isn’t ideal. Don’t get me wrong — the Clippers wouldn’t be jumping for joy over a matchup with the Grizzlies, but they’d hate it less than Memphis would.
Buha: Despite their playoff series going to seven games, and the Clippers narrowly pulling off a historic comeback in Game 1, it seems L.A. has Memphis’ number. So I doubt the Grizz would want to face a much-improved Clippers team come May. Yet, in theory, both of these ball clubs would actually prefer to play each other in the later rounds of the playoffs because it would likely imply they didn’t have to face both OKC and San Antonio.