Same teams, same results. The Clippers eked out the most important win of their season, 91-87, over the Grizzlies, and took control of the four-seed and home-court advantage. It’s simple: if the Clippers win out, they’re assured no lower than the four-seed and home-court advantage. With a little luck, the Nuggets will lose, and the Clippers will move up to the three-seed. That wasn’t possible without tonight’s huge win in Game 11 of the Clippers-Grizzlies rivalry (for those keeping track, Clippers are 7-4 in that stretch).
In the biggest game of the season, and possibly Clippers’ history (at least regular season-wise), Blake Griffin and Chris Paul combined for a mere 25 points on 11-of-26 shooting. It was the supporting cast that made the difference, which is something we haven’t been able to say for a while. DeAndre Jordan (16 points, 12 rebounds), Eric Bledsoe (9 points, 3 steals) and Grant Hill (5 points, 2 blocks) all made decisive plays down the stretch, and the Clippers benefited from an all-around team effort. It was a grind-it-out game, the Grizzlies’ trademark, but the Clippers somehow got the victory. I’m still in disbelief. Onto Last Call:
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
No Dime tonight, folks.
Tweet(s) of the Game
Matt Barnes jokingly called tonight’s game Game 0.5 of the playoffs
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 13, 2013
The Clippers bench was better in the series last yr (just like tonight).and the Grizz struggled to score in 4th qtr (just like tonight)
— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) April 14, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
The crew (Andrew, Fred and Jordan) makes the assertion that the Clippers would rather face Golden State or Houston over Memphis, even though those teams pose a bevy of defensive issues for L.A. (i.e. the Clippers can’t defend the 3). Jordan uses a baseball metaphor to explain how the Clippers’ defense early in the season is starting to return with the increased energy and adrenaline of these important games (and will continue in the playoffs).
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The Return of Stressful Basketball
The norm in Clipperland is stress free basketball. Low expectations, equally low results. When Chris Paul came to town, that all changed. Expectations for success were immediately thrust upon the Clippers. With a slow start in last year’s lockout-shortened season, the Clippers sprint through the end of the regular season and the playoffs was a whirlwind of uncertainty and excitement — an entirely tension-filled experience (until they were swept by the precise mechanics of the Spurs).
This season was different. The beginning of the year had the Clippers in play for the top spot in the West. Then after a few stumbles, they tore off a 17-game win streak and a top 3-seed in the playoffs seemed all but certain. In a way I only ever observed amongst my Lakers supporting companions, individual games lost some of their significance as high-end seeding looked to be inevitable.
But after some mid-season doldrums, the Clippers found themselves scrapping wins for a chance at homecourt advantage. Tonight was the culmination of the bounce back process. It also marks the official return of stressful basketball. Were the Clippers to have fumbled against Memphis, they’d have dropped to two games back of the Grizzlies in the standings, assuring virtually assuring a rematch of last year’s Memphis-hosted series. But it was the Grizzlies who lost, giving both teams identical records and the Clippers the head-to-head advantage.
The Clippers haven’t gone to crunch time in a game of this magnitude since the Clippers stole Game 7 in Memphis. This crucial win had the seem feeling as that deciding showdown in the first round of last year’s playoffs. Stress levels flying off the charts and hair-rising late game suspense will again become the norm. It’s not a common feeling for long-time members of Clipper Nation, but not one many would trade.
- Michael Shagrin
Small Sample Size Theater
As it often does in single-game scenarios, luck played a major role in the Clippers’ defeat of Memphis.
1. Marc Gasol missed six straight mostly-open jump shots outside of 10 feet, and finished just 2-for-8 on jump shots overall. Normally, Gasol shoots just south of 48 percent on two-point jump shots, so tonight’s game represents almost a four-point swing from what you might normally expect. Then couple this with Lamar Odom knocking down both of his jump shots from the left elbow, an area that he normally shoots under 30 percent from. It’s entirely possible that the difference in the game was decided by Gasol missing shots he would normally make, and Odom making shots he would normally miss.
2. In the first half, Los Angeles grabbed eight offensive rebounds off of their 21 missed shots, for an offensive rebound rate of 38.1 percent. Entering tonight’s game, the Clippers had an offensive rebound rate of 28.8 percent, and the Grizzlies had a defensive rebound rate of 74.3 percent. Given those numbers, the Clippers secured offensive boards at a rate roughly 10 percent higher than expected. This was a big factor in the first half – the Clippers had 15 second-chance points, and there was only one instance where an offensive rebound didn’t lead to a score. Had those rebounds been distributed the way the large-sample statistics would predict, we could have another four- or five-point swing in Memphis’ favor.
As has been demonstrated multiple times by people much smarter than I, luck often plays a larger role in the outcome of close games than skill and execution does. Does this mean that the Clippers only came out on top because of sheer luck? Of course not – they forced Gasol into low-percentage shots and they (especially DeAndre) out-worked the Grizzlies’ front line on the glass in the first half. But if these two teams meet in the playoffs (which is starting to seem to be an inevitability), don’t expect these trends to continue.
- Jeremy Conlin
The Old Man
Grant Hill, 40, is the oldest player in the NBA, and he’s also one of the most popular players in the Clippers locker room; younger teammates call him everything from “young fella” to “grandpa.” Hill, however, hadn’t seen much of the court recently. He hadn’t played in the previous five games before Saturday and only saw scarce action in three of the previous 13 games. Hill, who has been dealing with various injuries, simply fell out of the rotation in what he believes is the final season of his career. He might have worked his way back in after Saturday’s game. With Caron Butler playing only nine minutes and being sidelined for the rest of the game with a sore right knee, Hill was forced into action and delivered. With the Clippers trailing 77-72, Hill hit a 3-pointer and putback to tie the game. He also mixed in two blocks and a rebound to help spark a 14-0 run by the Clippers. It was an incredible performance by a player who not only hadn’t seen the court in two weeks but didn’t enter the game until the end of the third quarter. Hill was only part of a stellar night by the Clippers bench, which put up 40 points and helped the team snap the Grizzlies’ 13-game home winning streak and hand them their first loss in Memphis since Feb. 5.
- Arash Markazi at ESPN LA
Earlier this year, Blake Griffin jumped to field a lob pass that was thrown too high and too far in front of him. He couldn’t grab it, but he could reach it so instead of palming the ball and throwing it into the hoop, he instead perfectly deflected it out to a shooter in the corner for a three. It was beautiful, a touch pass at its finest.
Tonight, Griffin used that same skill but on the other end of the floor. With the Clippers leading 89-87 in the final seconds, Mike Conley attempted to pass the ball into Zach Randolph in the post, but Griffin took a risk on Z-Bo. He slid around him in a last-second fronting effort, and tipped the ball backwards to his teammate. Different play, different result. But same skill, same positive outcome. Griffin’s soft hands are as important an attribute as he possesses and tonight it showed.
- Fred Katz
With injuries to Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, the Clippers’ starting wing duo in Utopia, the Clippers were forced to go an alternate route with their rotation. Willie Green, who has started most of the season, and Matt Barnes, who’s closed most games this year, got more minutes. While both did some things well tonight, it was their counterparts off the bench that should get the credit.
Eric Bledsoe logged 21 minutes, the most minutes he’s played since April 3rd. He didn’t shoot particularly well (3 of 10 shooting), but he had 3 steals, grabbed 4 rebounds (including a key offensive rebound), and hounded Mike Conley, allowing CP3 to play off-the-ball defensively. Moreover, Grant Hill, who hadn’t played since March 30th, also contributed with 2 blocks and 5 straight points to tie the game at 77-77, and played vital fourth quarter minutes.
Coupled with DeAndre Jordan’s 36 minutes, it seems like Vinny Del Negro is headed toward the right direction with the rotation. The Clippers are going to use their athleticism and young defenders to their advantage. We don’t know what the status of Billups and Butler is, and those guys are more than capable of helping the Clippers win a round or two. But more Jordan and Bledsoe, with a little Hill sprinkled in, sounds good to me.
- Jovan Buha
- Andrew Han