Game 10 of the playoff series between the Grizzlies and the Clippers didn’t go quite as expected. Since the Rudy Gay trade, it seems like Memphis has finally embraced their offensive identity of inside-out scoring, led by their high-post impresario, Marc Gasol. The Clippers, while also being very good, have failed every big game showdown since the All-Star break – the exception being at Indiana, who did not have big man Roy Hibbert. It’s something to chew on: did the Clippers peak too soon, rattling off 17 straight wins early in the season? Or are they mid-metamorphosis, awaiting the playoffs to emerge from their cocoon. Let’s toss one back while pondering…
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
MVP: Marc Gasol had an efficient 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting, but also anchored Memphis’ defense, blowing up all the primary movement against a Clippers team without a reliable secondary action.
LVP: Lamar Odom is merely the representative for a team that looked out of sorts against the second ranked team in defensive efficiency. Offensive sets consistently funneled down to Odom at the 3-point line, where he was reluctant to shoot. And that’s exactly what the Grizzlies wanted.
That was… a fresh start: After Rudy Gay was traded, there were cries that Memphis lay victim to the new CBA mentality of cost-cutting. But winning 14 of their past 15, the realization has set in that the Grizzlies weren’t shedding salary so much as streamlining efficiency. Scary news as the playoffs are around the corner.
Tweets of the Game
Not sure what the Clippers are trying to accomplish offensively. Worse, I’m not sure they know.
— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) March 14, 2013
CP3 at FT line before he shoots he tells his guys “watch double drag”…hits FT, yells again “double drag”…Grizz come down run double drag
— Dustin Gray (@DGrayBasketball) March 14, 2013
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The Memphis Grizzlies’ inside job
When a team has skilled players like Gasol, it doesn’t need much ingenuity — just execution and smart plays that yield high-percentage stuff inside. Gasol’s interplay with fellow big man Zach Randolph is nothing new, but as defenses sag against Memphis, finding space for Gasol can be problematic, but not on Wednesday. The Clippers had no answer for the Grizzlies’ big men, as Gasol and Randolph ran a clinic on interior offense. Randolph finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, but commanded plenty of attention down low.
- Kevin Arnovitz, for ESPN.com’s Truehoop
Everything We Had Hoped
Mark Twain, a smart man whose quotes are readily accessible online, once said, “The poetry is all in the anticipation, for there is none in reality.” If this season fizzles out in the second round – and, let’s face it, right now that seems most likely – Twain’s observation will make a fitting epitaph.
Remember December? Everything was working. The Lob Mob was a nightly difference-maker. And we weren’t even seeing the “best possible” team. Wait til Chauncey gets back! Wait until Grant Hill is playing 20 minutes a game! And Lamar gets his shot back!
But like Twain said, there’s no poetry in reality. The reintegration of Billups and Hill has been far from seamless. Billups still looks uncomfortable playing the 2, where the size advantage he has leveraged throughout a career at point is diminished. Hill is human spackle, filling in the cracks on the second unit, but without an obvious role. And Lamar’s shot… A late game Kevin Arnovitz tweet said it best:
If the ball is spending a lot of time in the hands of Lamar Odom at 24 feet, you’re not doing it right.
— Kevin Arnovitz (@kevinarnovitz) March 14, 2013
There was poetry in the anticipation – the reality is kind of a mess.
- Jordan Heimer
The Odom Style
Lamar Odom’s jumper is gone. We know that. He knows that. At this point, opposing defenses know it, too. Since the start of the year, Odom has gotten smarter with his shot selection, holding off on plenty of potential 21-footers with defenders closing out on him. But here’s the problem: Aside from the fact that he’s not shooting as much, his style of play hasn’t changed. There haven’t been any adjustments.
Even though Odom is shooting 23.1 percent on shots beyond 20 feet, he almost always seems to be hanging out on the perimeter beyond that 20-foot marker. That far from the basket, what is he going to do? Defenses don’t guard him and he doesn’t often penetrate. That’s how you turn an offensive possession into 4-on-5.
- Fred Katz
Downtown giveth, downtown taketh away
It’s late in the first half. Chauncey Billups dribbles the ball up the court. Chris Paul comes off of a double screen and receives the ball at side court. Blake Griffin makes his way over to initiate a screen and roll. Usually, this is the Platonic ideal of the pick-and-roll. Decoy movement. Trailing defenders. The ball in the hands of the rolling big man. Everything was in order. Ah, but wait… suddenly, out of the shadows, a wild Marc Gasol appears! He stops the freight train his tracks. Griffin doesn’t panic — he recognizes the place he’s in, he’s been there many times before. No longer a freight train, Griffin harnesses his inner chameleon and reacts in line with the situation he’s been placed in. He looks to the corner. Billups is waiting there, alone.
The above scenario manifested itself a number of times last night. Unfortunately, the Clippers went 6 for 26 from beyond the arc tonight. Now, an occasional cold night from downtown can be seen as a relative anomaly. The real problem is that those rotations are only going to become quicker in May and unless the Clippers start getting creative on offense, the inevitable byproduct is a team that lives and dies by the three.
- Seerat Sohi
Never Let Me Go
SPOILER ALERT: If you were interested in reading the book or watching the movie, I’m about to reveal the basic plot.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” is an atmospheric story of love and identity in a dystopian world. But really, I don’t want to talk about any of that. It’s about a group of kids at an exclusive boarding school, raised in seclusion and reaffirmed as special. In reality, they were bred with the purpose of being living donors, spare parts for humans in the real world with failing organs or critical injuries.
Lately, that’s how #ATribeCalledBench feels – a unit harvested for its parts to fill in the pieces breaking down in the starting rotation. And while the starters continue to thrive, not missing a beat, the bench tribe has been on life support, unable to recapture what made it special (Tonight, the bench was outscored 20-11).
The bench is one of the things that made the early part of this season so special for the Clippers. These days, they’re just being salvaged for parts.
- Andrew Han
Coasting is confusing
I have no idea what to think right now.
At the beginning of the year, I praised Paul for leading with defense and for taking a hands-off approach offensively. He wasn’t bailing the Clippers out anymore — he was setting the tempo and the example early instead. He was letting the team figure it out. All was well.
Now quicker guards are leaving Paul in his dust. The Clippers biggest advantage defensively is gone. And in games against good teams, Paul isn’t saving the day offensively (save for Indiana). 1-for-7 against Golden State. 1-for-5 against Miami. 1-for-6 against the Spurs. 8-for-21 against OKC. 6-for-11 against Denver. 7-for-12 against Memphis. All losses.
The Clippers need Chris Paul at his best on both ends to beat elite teams consistently. This is one thing I know.
So what’s the deal? Is he still hurt? Is he coasting to the end of the regular season? I’m not sure, but it’s dangerous to assume that Paul will just “flip the switch” come playoff time. Per36 minutes over his career in the regular season, Paul averages 18.3 points on 13.6 attempts. In the playoffs? 18.5 points on 14.2 attempts.
Paul is who he is. And he’s great. But against elite defenses, with this team and this coach in this system, is great good enough?
- DJ Foster