The Los Angeles Clippers began their 2012 playoff run in a fashion one would expect from the old Clippers, trailing the Memphis Grizzlies 16-34 after the first quarter. The Clippers missed long jumpers, committed careless turnovers and couldn't stop the Grizzlies. The young Clippers looked, to sum it up simply, overwhelmed.
Many expected the Clippers to struggle adjusting to the intensity of playoff basketball but not as drastically as the opening 12 minutes of the franchise's first playoff game since 2006. Outside of newcomers Chris Paul, Caron Butler and Kenyon Martin, the Clippers main contributors have little to no playoff experience, so there are going to be growing pains.
Luckily for L.A., they were able to adjust sooner than later and staged a comeback typically seen in sports fiction movies.
One of the biggest reasons why the Clippers aren't suited to make a deep playoff run this season is their shot selection, which was evident early in Sunday's game against Memphis. Eleven of the Clippers 16 shot attempts in the first quarter were jump shots, with the Clippers only connecting on three. Missed long jumpers lead to long rebounds and fast break opportunities for the opposition.
Much of the Clippers reliance on jump shots is due to Blake Griffin's lack of post counter moves. Once Griffin's go to spin move is neutralized, Griffin doesn't yet have a reliable second option in his repertoire that he can use to generate points in the post. Griffin then has to either kick it out to a teammate for a long jumper or take a jump shot himself, something that he has yet to knock down with any consistency.
The Clippers settled down a bit and got the ball in the paint more in the second quarter. L.A. took twice as many shots within 15 feet from the basket as jumpers and kept pace with Memphis, holding the Grizzlies to 24 points while scoring 23 point of their own.
Much of the same can be said for the third quarter, where Memphis only outscored the Clippers 27-25 but held a 85-64 lead going into the fourth before the Clippers outside shooting heated up. The Clippers knocked down 5-6 from three-point range and 10-13 overall in the fourth while the Grizzlies looked much like L.A. did early in the game and couldn't buy a bucket.
The Clippers subsequently outscored Memphis 35-13 in the fourth.
Shockingly, Chris Paul wasn't the main hero for the Clippers in the fourth quarter this time around. Reserve Nick Young was the hero, knocking down a trio of threes in the midst of the Clippers 26-1 run that propelled them to victory.
Overall, the Clippers/Grizzlies match up to create one of the most exciting series of the first round. Just remember to expect more of the bad than good from the Clippers throughout their playoff run due to inexperience and inconsistent shot selection—trends that have been issues for the Clippers the entire 2011-2012 season.