Memphis Grizzlies vs. LA Clippers: Western Conference Round 1 Preview

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Memphis Grizzlies vs. LA Clippers: Western Conference Round 1 Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers had such a fun time playing a seven-game first-round series in 2012 that they decided another go-around would be twice as entertaining.

Memphis, Los Angeles and the Denver Nuggets were locked in a perpetual merry-go-round of elbows and knuckles for the entire season over the third, fourth and fifth seeds in the Western Conference, with Los Angeles and Memphis landing those final two spots.

The Clippers were able to clinch home-court advantage for the series with their win over the Sacramento Kings on the final day of the season.

Both teams finished with identical records, but the Clippers ended up with the tiebreaker thanks to their 3-1 advantage over the Grizzlies in their season series.

 

Seeds: Memphis Grizzlies No. 5; Los Angeles Clippers No. 4 

Records: Memphis Grizzlies 56-26; Los Angeles Clippers 56-26

Season series: Los Angeles Clippers won 3-1

Playoff schedule: Game 1 Saturday, April 20, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Game 2 Monday, April 22, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT), Game 3 Thursday, April 25, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT), Game 4 Saturday, April 27, 4:30 p.m. ET (TNT), Game 5 Tuesday, April 30 TBD, Game 6 Friday, May 3 TBD, Game 7 Sunday, May 5 TBD

 

What Everybody's Talking About: Last Season's Playoff Series

Last season's series was a gut-wrenching mess for the Grizzlies.

Memphis was able to take a 27-point lead in the first game of the series, only to let a fourth-quarter lead of 21 points disappear thanks to Chris Paul leading his team back from what should have been a devastating defeat.

It was tied for the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history during the shot-clock era.

The ensuing six games were defensive slugfests. Each team only scored 100 or more once in the series.

Across the span of seven games, the Grizzlies actually out-scored the Clippers, but Los Angeles was a little better in the close games.

 

What Nobody's Talking About: Memphis Since the Rudy Gay Trade

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

While the overall philosophy for the Memphis Grizzlies is no different than it was before they traded Rudy Gay, the way their offense runs is very different.

In the end, it's shaken out about the same as Memphis averages 93.4 points per game since the Gay trade, compared to their season average of 93.5 per game. They have dropped from 105 points per 100 possessions down to 103, but they've posted a better record without him.

The difference between the Grizzlies now and in 2012 is that they were dependent upon Gay in 2012, and their offense showed that. He averaged over 16 shots per game in the playoffs and shot just over 42 percent. Zach Randolph struggled as well, shooting 42 percent.

The scoring load is more spread out, and it's something the Clippers had trouble with. Memphis' one win in the series came after the trade, and the second post-Gay trade contest was a four-point Clips win

 

Don't Forget...

Marc Gasol's point-center routine was on full display in the final matchup of the season between the two teams on April 13.

Not only is Gasol an amazing defender, a terrific offensive player in the post and a solid jump shooter, but he's also one of the best passing centers in the NBA.

Gasol gives the Grizzlies something very few teams have; the ability to consistently run the offense through a big man who can score and pass.

In the video Gasol is compared to George Mikan, and as anachronistic as it seems, that is a completely acceptable comparison.

He has the vision to find cutters and hit them in rhythm. Otherwise, Gasol knows when shooters are spotting up, when to take it himself or when to hand it off to Zach Randolph to do his Ninja Turtle routine.

 

Key Matchup: Mike Conley vs. Chris Paul 

The Los Angeles Clippers have the advantage of owning the best player in this particular series.

There are a ton of magnificent matchups littered about this series; Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan going defense crazy, Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph fighting in the post and perhaps even a bit of a Tayshaun Prince-Jamal Crawford showdown. 

However, both teams' offense starts with the guy taking the ball up the floor.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While Conley remains one of the more underrated point guards in the NBA, Paul is still the unanimous choice for league's best point guard.

Conley and Paul will be covering each other for a good chunk of each game, but Tony Allen should be thrown into the mix to cover Paul.

One thing you've always got to remember is that Paul is not only a tremendous floor-runner, but he can also take over a game with his shot as well, something he doesn't do as often as he used to.

Meanwhile, Conley can shoot, he knows how to work as a part of the team's defense, and he is a perfect high-low teammate for Marc Gasol.

This series will probably come down the point guard play.

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