How did the Clippers get here? What happened along the way? This guide will breakdown relevant statistics between the two teams, analyze key matchups and let you know what to expect from the surging Clippers. Originally labeled title contenders before the season started, it’s time to find out if the Clippers can live up to those expectations.
The Los Angeles Clippers set a franchise record with 56 wins this season. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin led a revamped Clippers team to the first Pacific Division title in its history.
The additions of Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom helped make Los Angeles one of the deepest and most dangerous teams in the league. Thanks to the team’s depth, the Clippers were able to rattle off the second longest winning-streak in the league at 17 games. Los Angeles won every game from November 28th until New Year’s Day.
While there were a few shaky moments this season, including losing eight of 11 games in the middle of the season, the team rebounded to win seven-straight games to end the regular season. Now the question surrounding the Clippers is can they defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in a rematch of last year’s first round.
The Los Angeles Clippers were one of the most well-rounded teams this season. The Clippers finished 9th in points per game and vastly improved their defense, finishing 4th in points allowed per game.
While rebounding still remains a weakness, ranking 17th in total rebounding, the team was able to spread the ball around and play efficient on offense. Los Angeles finished 4th in assists per game, due in large part because of its strong guard play.
The Clippers’ first-round opponent will be the Memphis Grizzlies for the second-straight year. Memphis tries to slow the tempo of the game to a snail’s pace. Because of this, the Grizzlies rank 26th in points per game and 24th in assists.
However, Memphis is one of the best defensive teams in the league, ranking 1st in points allowed. Their deep frontcourt also allows them to be active on the glass, as they rank 12th in total rebounding.
The most important matchup to pay attention to in this series will be Tony Allen defending Chris Paul. Allen harassed Paul last season in the teams’ seven-game series and will do so again this year.
The scouting report on Paul has been to put someone long and quick on him to cut off passing lanes. While Paul is masterful at creating off the dribble, he has trouble making the right pass when Allen’s long arms are blocking his passing vision.
Another interesting matchup will be Blake Griffin against Zach Randolph. Neither player is likely to slow down the other on offense, but the two have been going after each other for two years. There were a few mix-ups in last season’s series and one only a few weeks back.
Both are aggressive players and are sure to feed off each other’s intensity. The key for each will be staying out of foul trouble and limiting offensive rebounds. Randolph is a good rebounder and definitely has an advantage over Griffin there. However, Griffin is able to stretch Randolph outside the paint on defense and force him to defend pick-and-rolls.
The most vital key for the Los Angeles Clippers to beat the Memphis Grizzlies will be controlling the glass. The Clippers have struggled all season in the rebounding department, and Memphis has the size to give the Los Angeles all they can handle.
Furthermore, if Memphis is able to pull down offensive rebounds it will likely convert them into second-chance points. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are both much better than Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the post. The more offensive rebounds the Clippers give up, the less likely they are to win the game.
The second most important key will be for the Clippers to play at their pace. Memphis is going to try to slow down the game. While Chris Paul is fully capable of destroying defenses in a low possession game, the rest of the roster is more suited to playing in the open floor.
Blake Griffin and Jordan both play their best when they can get out and finish in transition. The same goes for the bench. Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe can push the pace on both ends of the floor in the Clippers’ favor. The faster the Clippers can play, the more Memphis will be out of their comfort zone.
The Los Angeles Clippers were unable to finish with the 3rd seed, making their path extremely more difficult. Now they must face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and should they advance, would likely play the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unfortunately, the Clippers’ chances of advancing to the Conference Finals have been greatly diminished. Had they been able to grab the 3rd seed from Denver, their potential second round opponent could have been a hobbled San Antonio Spurs team. Tony Park and Manu Ginobili are injured and unlikely to be fully healthy.
While the Clippers do matchup with both Memphis and Oklahoma City, they have an extremely difficult path to the Conference Finals. Expectations should be tempered, because Memphis should give the Clippers all they can handle. A first-round exit is possible and a second-round loss to the Thunder is probable.