After failing to close out the Memphis Grizzlies on two separate occasions in Games 5 and 6, all signs point toward the Los Angeles Clippers having no chance to advance to the second round of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
Yet don’t make the mistake of counting out the Clippers just yet.
It’s easy to do considering they looked like a beaten team leaving the floor after Game 6. Then there’s the fact that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Mo Williams are all banged up. More importantly, after taking home-court advantage early in the series, the Clippers handed it right back to the Grizzlies and must win a Game 7 on the road to advance.
Even more signs pointing against the Clippers is the fact that they were only a 16-17 team away from the Staples Center on the season. Going back through the course of the past five seasons (including this postseason), the Clippers are only 4-8 when playing in Memphis.
But while every sign in the world points towards the Clippers season coming to a quick end on Sunday, Los Angeles can head into Memphis and shock the Grizzlies.
Up and down the roster, the Grizzlies are the more talented and deeper team, but the Clippers have a couple of things going for them that Memphis doesn’t.
First of all, they have an MVP-type point guard in Chris Paul.
Banged up or not, Paul is the best player on the floor and having a fantastic series, averaging 20.7 points, 7.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 steals, while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 38 percent from the arc.
The NBA playoffs are where superstars tend to shine the brightest and there’s only one real superstar on the floor and that’s Paul.
On a national stage, with all eyes on him, Paul will have the perfect opportunity to prove to the world that he was worth the haul the Clippers gave up to acquire him in the offseason.
There’s also the fact that the Clippers erased a 27-point deficit in Game 1 in Memphis. That almost assures that the Clippers will fight for 48 minutes.
Then there’s Memphis forward Zach Randolph who’s given the Clippers plenty of bulletin-board material by calling the Clippers, in particular Paul and Griffin, the biggest floppers in the NBA (h/t ESPN). One way to quiet Randolph is by leaving Memphis with a win.
To do that though, not only will it take big efforts from both Paul and Griffin but the rest of their role players as well.
The Clippers have guys like Williams, Randy Foye, Nick Young and Eric Bledsoe that can make shots. Almost every single one of them will have to come up with a big effort.
However, if they get the necessary scoring, Los Angeles needs contributions in other areas as well.
So far in the series they are getting out-rebounded 42.5 to 35.5. They have to win the rebounding battle as well.
Add all that up and the Clippers have a chance. Mix in some hustle plays and a few key defensive stops late in the game and the Clippers can win.
They will win if it comes down to one possession.
Quite frankly with the game and the season on the line, there’s nobody on either roster who I’d rather give the ball to than Paul.
It could be knocking down a big shot, making a key pass or coming up with a big defensive stop, but in the biggest moments on the biggest stage, I’m giving the ball to my superstar.
At the end of the day it’s going to be the performance of Paul who will make the difference on the Clippers advancing to the second round of the playoffs.