NBA Playoffs 2012: No One Should Count Clippers out Against Spurs

Danny Webster@@DannyWebster21Analyst IIIMay 14, 2012

Chris Paul was one rebound and assist away from a triple-double in the Clippers' Game 7 win.
Chris Paul was one rebound and assist away from a triple-double in the Clippers' Game 7 win.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The writing was on the wall to have a rematch between the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.

Memphis battled back from 3-1 down to send the series to a seventh and deciding game against the Los Angeles Clippers at FedEx Forum, and it looked apparent after Games 5 and 6 that the Grizzlies' size in the front court would overwhelm the young Clippers at home, with one of the more raucous crowds in the NBA cheering them on.

Well, you can throw that script out the window.

The Clippers are moving on to the second round for only the third time in 41 years after an impressive 82-72 win over the Grizzlies on Sunday, thanks to another MVP-type performance by Chris Paul and a combined 41 points from the L.A. bench.

Well, someone had to pick up the slack for Blake Griffin and Caron Butler, who combined for 16 points on 6-for-23 shooting.

It was only six short years ago when the Clippers were in the second round, and they were one game away from reaching the Western Conference finals before being ousted by the Phoenix Suns.

But this Clipper team is a completely different one than the team in 2006: One filled with young, athletic talent and All-Stars that can compete with any team in the league.

And even though Los Angeles hasn't tasted as much success as their counterparts in their upcoming series, not one person should count out this young Clippers team against one of the perennial favorites to get to the NBA Finals.

When the Clippers acquired CP3 before the season began, every one knew that if "Lob City" wanted to advance far in the playoffs, it would have to be off the leadership and play-making abilities of Paul.

He may not have the deep-run playoff experience as compared to his point guard opposition, Tony Parker, but this isn't Paul's first rodeo in a big-time situation—and this is surely not his first time facing the Spurs in a second-round series.

Back in 2007, Paul was one game away from leading the New Orleans Hornets past the Spurs in a second-round series that went seven games. Despite averaging 24 points and almost 12 assists throughout the playoffs that year, he couldn't finish the job in the final game.

You don't think that's lingering on his mind just a bit?

The mental toughness of this Clipper squad was on full display in that Game 7 win against Memphis. Almost every person had written them off after they couldn't finish the Grizzlies off at home in Game 6 when they had an eight-point lead with almost six minutes left.

But after holding Zach Randolph to nine points on only 25 percent shooting (3-for-12 from the field), making Mike Conley seem non-existent and out-scoring the Memphis bench by 30 points, the Clippers are playing with house money and are more confident than they've ever been.

The last thing you want to do is give a young team with nothing to lose a high degree of confidence. And if San Antonio can't come out in Game 1, set the tone right away and bring the Clippers back down to Earth, then the Spurs better be ready for a long series.

Looking at the potential matchups for each position, one can say they're either evenly matched or that the Clippers or Spurs may hold the advantage in terms of experience on either side of the coin.

Obviously most eyes will be focused on MVP candidates Parker and Paul at the point guard position, but Caron Butler will have his hands full with Manu Ginobili coming off the bench.

It'll also be interesting to see who on San Antonio decides to guard Griffin, whether it be Tim Duncan or the more athletic DeJuan Blair.

Depending on which side of the coin you take—experience or athleticism—you can't go wrong with either choice.

Luckily for Vinny Del Negro, his job is safe for another series and he has a chance to rally his troops for another playoff shocker. Young and inexperienced they may be, but the Clippers are not about to lay down for the Spurs, and San Antonio knows it.

And if the cards are played the right way, then Hollywood may have to add more to this amazing script.