Grizzlies sitting 5th in West after home loss
APR 13, 2013 11:57p ET
1. If this is what a playoff series would bring ... bring it on
The final stat sheet was lying in a bucket of ice in front of Grizzlies guard Tony Allen as he conducted a postgame interview. Across the hall, music was blaring in a celebratory Clippers locker room.
This one felt like a playoff game, but the real postseason starts next weekend, and Memphis (54-26) currently sits fifth in the West with two games left. Los Angeles, the Pacific champs (54-26), jumped ahead of Memphis on the strength of a seasonal tiebreaker, taking three of four games from the regular-season series.
The Grizzlies had won 13 straight at home — two shy of a franchise record. But the Clippers won here twice this season.
That aside, Clippers forward Blake Griffin would prefer to have the majority of playoff games in Los Angeles, should the teams meet again.
"You want to have home-court advantage, absolutely," said Griffin, who had 12 points and nine boards Saturday. "I like how we've played when we come here. Having homecourt is a plus on top of that."
There were 15 ties, 10 lead changes and a pair of late runs that decided the game. Digging deeper, there were five ties and seven lead changes in the third quarter alone. It got so confusing during that stretch, the scoreboard operator lost track.
The last tie of the third, at 68-all, was broken after Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless hit a runner in the lane and a free throw to put Memphis up three. Clippers point guard Chris Paul turned visibly frustrated, after watching the confused clock operator momentarily give the Clippers points for Bayless' heroics.
2. Balance may be the key to playoff success for Memphis
The inside-out Grizzlies threw it in from the outside. Memphis was outscored by eight in the paint in the first half but managed a tie, thanks to shooting better than 62 percent from behind the arc (5 for 8).
Things returned to normal in the second half, with the Grizzlies holding a 48-46 overall edge in the paint. Center Marc Gasol made a strong move over Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes for a 75-70 lead, before the Clippers went on a 14-0 run and kept Memphis scoreless for more than three minutes. Gasol missed a triple double by three assists, collecting 18 points and 15 boards.
The Grizzlies may have lost on Saturday, but the game also confirmed the following: If these teams meet in the playoffs, the details will likely determine the series victor. The Clippers and Grizzlies each missed seven free throws. Both teams connected on six three-pointers. There was also a two-point differential of points in the paint and a two-rebound difference.
"(The Grizzlies) can play anywhere. We feel like we can play anywhere," Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. "If we have to see them again, it will be a great matchup."
3. In the playoffs, the Grizzlies' offense will have to match their defense's intensity and proficiency
Heading into Saturday, Memphis had surrendered an average of only 80 points over three straight wins (Sacramento, Charlotte, Houston). The Clippers' 91 points barely exceeded the Grizzlies' 89.4 seasonal average.
The Grizzlies offense, in turn, shot 41 percent for the game, while collecting only 14 points — amid abysmal shooting — in the fourth quarter. Free throws were a problem too, as Memphis hit only 13 of 20. Allen missed a pair with 1:53 left that would have put the Grizzlies down by one.
Even point guard Mike Conley, who is averaging less than 10 points in the last seven meetings with the Clippers, missed a rare and crucial free throw toward the end. The Grizzlies' bench didn't fare much better, getting outscored by the Clippers' reserves, 40-32.
Los Angeles can brag on its own defense, too. The Clips, who came to Memphis leading the league in steals (9.6 per game), posted nine thefts on the night — with five coming in the opening 14 minutes.
"I think we’ve been in playoff mode. It's just getting everything to gel as we go forward," said Allen. "I think (the Clippers are) coming in, doing a good job of being aggressive, swinging the first punch."
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