It was just over a week ago that the Clippers were riding high off a Chris Paul buzzer-beater. Sure, they let a 12-point lead disappear in the waning moments of Game 2′s fourth quarter, but that was a minor adjustment as they marched to Memphis to push the Grizzlies to the brink of elimination.
Eight days later and the Clippers have their heads on the block. Blake Griffin is injured in an off-day practice and his availability for Game 6 is uncertain at best. And the adjustments? Those have only come from Tennessee. Glass half empty says there’s been no indication of being able to stop the Grizzlies and the Clippers are now without their second best player. Glass half full? Necessity is the mother of invention. Now who needs a full mug?
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
MVP: Zach Randolph. Every big man for the Clippers had their shot at stopping Z-Bo, but no one could do it. Randolph’s dominant post play and 10 points in the fourth quarter kept the Clippers at bay while Marc Gasol sat out with foul trouble.
X-Factor: Backup bigs. With Blake Griffin hobbled by an ankle injury that forced him out of the game, the Clippers frontcourt stumbled with turnovers, poor defensive rebounding, and a total inability to slow down Randolph or Gasol in the post.
Well that was…defensive: The Grizzlies sometimes struggle to hang on to leads, but the physicality and length of Quincy Pondexter and Tony Allen finally wore down Chris Paul, who scored just four points in the final frame.
– D.J. Foster
Tweet(s) of the Game
Blake genetics came straight from god himself via fed ex
— Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace) May 1, 2013
This #GrizzliesvClippers game/series is so close, it feels like every mistake is a huge one, even if it’s 10 minutes in.
— Tas Melas (@TasMelas) May 1, 2013
I wonder if Chris Paul will fire himself as head coach.
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) May 1, 2013
Eric Bledsoe Per 36 Stat O’ The Night
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
The gang dissects what adjustments are or are not being made. How serious is Blake Griffin’s injury? The road team won so the series must have started; will it end just as quickly?
Check Your Messages
No two sports hurt the same
Hockey overtime is the queasy crowd staring up at a man out on a ledge, threatening to jump. Baseball games unravel the same way Hemingway said people go broke: at first very slowly, and then all at once.
You know what basketball reminds me of? Gambling. Long craps runs, good or bad; card after card sliding off a blackjack shoe. You’re gonna win some and lose some. No single hand makes or breaks your night – until one does. And when you’re in a hole, a deep hole. Well, you’re gonna need a nice streak of good luck to get right.
The Clippers played a dogged fourth quarter, and there were moments – the driving Matt Barnes dunk that cut the lead to 4; that sweet Jamal runner in the lane; the tipped rebound that landed and died on the crotch of the rim (a sign! surely, a sign!) – that teased the flame of belief flickering inside of every stuck gambler. Here it is! The streak to end all streaks! I’m due! But the hole was too deep, and the run, frankly, just wasn’t that hot.
In basketball, it’s the repetition and the accumulation, death by a 1000 pin-pricks. Every blown rebound and three-second violation, every cottony-soft Z-Bo hook and stupidly effective flat Gasol set shot. No particular moment was decisive – but they all added up to a losing night.
- Jordan Heimer
Chris Paul, Scorer
We always hear about how much more aggressive of a scorer Chris Paul is during the postseason. In some ways, that’s more myth than reality. He does shoot more, but the increase isn’t overwhelming. Over the course of his career, he has taken only 0.5 more field goal attempts per 36 minutes in the playoffs than in the regular season (14.1 to 13.6). Meanwhile, his usage rate rises in the postseason, but just barely (from 23.7 percent to 25.9 percent). It’s not all that different. That is, except for those games when Paul decides to take over completely.
That’s what happened Tuesday night. Paul attempted 24 shots, the second most he’s attempted in a game all season (he shot 25 times against the Lakers on Jan. 4). Surely, that has something to do with Blake Griffin going down and the Clippers being unable to create offense with him off that court. That means we may see this type of aggressive Chris Paul in Game 6 and beyond (if beyond exists).
- Fred Katz
“Mixing it up”
Vinny Del Negro was asked about how someone might respond to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, dominant forces around the basket. He described his approach as “mixing it up,” with a focus on sending the opposite wing across the key for a low post double team (think Chauncey running over from the corner and swatting at Gasol). And that was it. The entire mixing up.
Mixing it up is what middle schoolers did in the ’70s. Mixing it up is what Paula Dean does with buttermilk. Mixing it up isn’t trying a defensive scheme for a quarter then reversing course. The Clippers’ low post defenders were consistently left on an island, only to find help once the deft big men get dangerously close to the basket.
But it’s certainly not all on Vinny. Z-Bo and Gasol were on a mission. I don’t even know if triple teams could’ve stopped them tonight.
- Michael Shagrin
The Butterfly Effect
Zach Randolph looked legitimately like Spurs-wrecking, party like it’s 2011, upset vintage Z-Bo tonight. And try as he might, DeAndre Jordan couldn’t slow him down. But neither could any other Clippers big man. Yet, DeAndre sat for all but about two minutes of the critical fourth quarter.
Eric Bledsoe has consistently proven to be lethal to the Grizzlies throughout his time as a Clipper. And though Bledsoe played 19 minutes tonight, he only played seven through the first three quarters.
For five games now, Ryan Hollins has been the backup center for the Clippers in the first half, and Ronny Turiaf the backup in the second half. There’s been speculation as to what either big man brings to the series, but Memphis’ rotation does not change from half to half. And there has been no explanation to date why Hollins’ expertise is only valid in the first half while Turiaf’s skills are only applicable in the second.
These are all disparate issues; problems that are not individually significant. But as things begin to snowball together, small conundrums roll into larger ones, the ripple augments the dilemmas. And the seemingly nuanced and subtle points of contention early in the season, “Why don’t Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe play more together?” “Why doesn’t DeAndre play in crunch time?” magnify under the hostile lights of the playoffs.
The butterfly effect, small changes at one point in a system can have a large impact to a later state. I think we’d all like to know what those small adjustments earlier in the season would look like now.
- Andrew Han
Chairmen of the Boards
In each game this series, the team that’s pulled down the most rebounds has won the game. In games 3 and 4, Memphis had a significant advantage on the glass (+12 and +17 for the Grizzlies), both double-digit victories for the Grizzlies. Tonight, the Clippers narrowed the gap, as Memphis was a mere +2 on the boards, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe that’s because during the regular season the Clippers forced more turnovers than any team in the league—which helped mitigate their below average rebounding—but tonight Memphis had a mere 7 turnovers. If you can’t get stops and can’t get more possessions than the other team, you’re just not going to win.
- Patrick James
What’s The Answer?
For the past three games, the Clippers have failed to stop Zach Randolph. With Blake Griffin severely hobbled and possibly doubtful for Game 6, what’s the answer? Here were some of the more popular suggestions:
Go Zone: In the last three games, Memphis hasn’t hit more than four 3-pointers. It’s pretty incredible that an offense can have success without the use of the 3-ball in 2013, but it also illustrates that Memphis is getting what they want offensively. The Clippers didn’t use zone at all in this game, even when Matt Barnes moved down to the 4 in smaller lineups. The downside to a zone is that it’s harder to secure defensive rebounds, which is obviously a huge issue against Memphis. Letting Marc Gasol play 4-on-3 in the high post is also a risky proposition. However, in spurts — particularly when Gasol sits — it might be a useful tool to get Z-Bo out of his lounge chair on the right block and get the Grizzlies as a team out of their collective comfort zone.
Go Small: This series demands playmakers with speed who can make quick decisions, and that’s not Caron Butler or Chauncey Billups. The Paul-Bledsoe-Crawford trio has its warts, but Bledsoe can create valuable extra possessions and Crawford can at least put pressure on the Grizzlies defense as a viable threat to both spot up and attack off the bounce. More importantly, this lineup could lull the Grizzlies into taking advantage of a mismatch offensively, which is Crawford covering Prince in the post. Honestly, anyone using post possessions that isn’t named Randolph or Gasol is a victory. I think you roll the dice with Prince trying to beat you instead of those two.
More Doubles: The double-teams need to come quicker on the catch. Once Randolph makes his move towards the basket, it’s too late. Randolph has five assists total in the last three games, and while he’s a much more capable passer than Clippers fans remember, an open jumper from Allen or even Conley or Prince will likely yield a better outcome than Randolph posting and everyone flying to the boards. Plus, long misses lead to long rebounds, which could spark a transition game that’s been almost completely floored. The pace created by Memphis’ post game has been almost as important as the points derived from it.
Get them in foul trouble: Gasol is more likely to get in foul trouble in transition, where it’s tougher to put the brakes on that huge frame. Randolph is susceptible to foul trouble as well, but without Griffin, the Clippers lack anyone to really go at him.
Trust the backup bigs: Lamar Odom is probably the best defensive rebounder and pick-and-roll defender on the roster. There are advantages and disadvantages to having him cover Randolph or Gasol, but he’s the superior option to Turiaf or Hollins. Turiaf doesn’t have the length to bother either player’s release, and Hollins is a liability on the glass. All three were awful in Game 5 with the defensive 3-second calls and turnovers, but there will be plenty of unavoidable times where Randolph or Gasol will get them on an island.
- D.J. Foster
Without Griffin, Clips Have Few Answers
Few athletes move with the combination of force and grace of Blake Griffin, which made it surreal to watch the Los Angeles Clippers power forward struggle through the ordinary task of pulling on a pair of charcoal slacks. Moments after the Clippers fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 103-93 in Game 5, Griffin’s right ankle looked as if it had swallowed a grapefruit. He tried to steady his bionic frame so he could crawl into his pants, but it was a physical trial every bit as difficult as wrestling with Zach Randolph on the low block.
“I got treatment all through the night, but it didn’t hold up,” Griffin said. “It felt good enough at the beginning of the game today, but it kind of got worse as time went on.”
Griffin suffered a high sprain of his right ankle during a scrimmage at the Clippers’ practice on Monday when he landed on a teammate’s ankle. On Tuesday night, sources with close knowledge of Griffin’s injury said unequivocally that the power forward would have never seen the floor had Game 5 been a regular-season game. After struggling through 20 minutes of action, Griffin checked out at the 5:39 mark of the third quarter and was declared out for the remainder of the game. He finished with four points.
- Kevin Arnovitz, for ESPN.com