Game-by-Game Predictions for Memphis Grizzlies' Series with Los Angeles Clippers

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIApril 20, 2013

Game-by-Game Predictions for Memphis Grizzlies' Series with Los Angeles Clippers

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    The Memphis Grizzlies will begin a rematch with the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday that promises to be more intense than last year's showdown. Last year, Memphis and L.A. fought to the floor through seven games before the Grizz gave way. Memphis clawed back from a 3-1 deficit via its signature defense, only to collapse.

    Both teams improved from last season and started fast this year, only to fall to an undesirable 4-5 matchup.

    The Clippers improved defensively with the addition of Matt Barnes and added scoring depth with the signing of Jamal Crawford. They stole the title from the Grizzlies as the top turnover-forcing team in the league after Memphis held it for back-to-back years.

    Vinny Del Negro managed to lead the Clips to their first division title in franchise history while avoiding too much locker room drama.

    Memphis won a franchise-record 56 games, despite dealing their leading scorer at midseason.

    At that, the Grizzlies improved their offensive and defensive ratings after trading Rudy Gay, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN noted. Moreover, they finished 26-8 after getting used to their new rotation in the post-Gay era.

    The Clippers won the season series 3-1, but that doesn't make them a huge favorite against the Grizz. The two teams' defensive aggression may upset the other's efficiency.

    As Rob Mahoney of said in calling the Clips-Grizz series the second-most watchable first-round series: "Few teams test the Grizzlies as consistently and effectively as the Clippers do, just as few teams are as capable of wearing down Chris Paul by rotating exhaustingly to cover every angle."

    Follow along to see which team will crawl away in triumph and how they'll do it.

    Advanced metrics come from

Game 1

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    10:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 20 (ESPN)

    Staples Center, Los Angeles

    While last year's opening game between the Grizzlies and the Clippers saw the Grizz jump ahead only to fall apart, neither team will taste a bit of separation.

    The two teams that force the most turnovers will be at their craft, chomping for steals and pressuring the other into poor decisions.

    Tony Allen will remind people why he'll be a confounding free agent this summer, as he grabs a few steals, but on the other end makes Lionel Hollins wish he didn't touch the ball.

    Like Allen, Chris Paul relates to the Lob City faithful what his defense, among other gifts, means to the team.

    Memphis and L.A. will pop a few shots each in the fourth quarter that remind people what the game is like when players allow opponents to breathe. Amidst the trading of shots, the game remains locked.

    The Grizzlies don't have much in the way of three-point shooting. They're 24th in the league in three-point field-goal percentage and last in three-point attempts. However, they'll make use of it in the waning moments of Game 1.

    Staring into the post and hoping not to have the entry feed knocked away as Blake Griffin did at the end of their last meeting, Mike Conley will dish it to his side to an unlikely participant in a deciding shot.

    Tayshaun Prince, a talented three-point shooter who John Hollinger wishes would take more threes, jacks one up at the right moment to light a smile on the face of Memphis' new front office man.

    Score Prediction: Grizzlies 88, Clippers 85

Game 2

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    10:30 p.m. ET, Monday, April 22 (TNT)

    Staples Center, Los Angeles

    Emerging from the dust of Game 1, Vinny Del Negro and Chris Paul scribble out a plan to baffle the Grizzlies defense. While the Grizzlies are the second-best team in defending the three ball, they occasionally find themselves prone to an onslaught.

    Chris Paul will orchestrate a brilliant outside strategy, flipping the ball to a diverse set of shooters for perimeter hits. Matt Barnes, a streaky three-point shooter, manages to knock down five while Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford drain a few each.

    DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin succeed in screening Memphis defenders to facilitate the parade.

    Meanwhile, the Grizzlies struggle to keep pace as their shooting flags.

    By the third quarter, the Clippers will discover a double-digit lead that the Grizzlies can't deconstruct.

    Score Prediction: Clippers 99, Grizzlies 93

Game 3

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    9:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, April 25 (TNT)

    FedEx Forum, Memphis

    The "Grindhouse" embraces the Grizzlies with the greatest solace that they could know. Memphis is 88-27 on their home court in the last three years.

    With this comfort, the Grizzlies will bounce back from the tough loss by holding the Clippers at arm's length in their own style. Fifteen of Memphis' 24 double-digit victories have come with the opponent scoring fewer than 90 points.

    The Grizzlies will enforce their defensive agenda on the Clippers, turning out double-digits in steals as they did in 30 games this season.

    Mike Conley will run the floor with greater effectiveness than in the first two games, leading to several hot mid-range shots by Marc Gasol and a solid field-goal clip for the team overall.

    Efficiency makes the Grizzlies look extremely tough, which will be the case after this rout.

    Score Prediction: Grizzlies 93, Clippers 82

Game 4

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    4:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 27 (TNT)

    FedEx Forum, Memphis

    On a balanced scoring team such as the Grizzlies, possessions are often won by a keen pass or an offensive rebound. Zach Randolph led the No. 2 team in offensive rebounding percentage. Randolph dominates the offensive glass, pulling down boards at a 13.8-percent rate on that end and leading the league in offensive rebounds.

    Marc Gasol knows when to pull back and dump off passes. He often defers when he takes the ball in the high post and doesn't like his shot opportunity.

    Both will exercise their strengths for facilitation to extend possessions and gain an upper hand in another grimy installment of this series.

    The two teams will thrash away at each other, limiting clean looks at the basket. Randolph will wrestle with Blake Griffin around the rim, gaining an advantage for the night.

    With several grabs from his own team's misses, Randolph will push his teammates over the hump and into a sizable lead in the series.

    With their strong defense, the Grizz will make fans wonder if the Clippers can mount a comeback. Then again, L.A. incited the same thoughts in last year's series after four games.

    Score Prediction: Grizzlies 85, Clippers 81

Game 5

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    Tuesday, April 30 (time and station to be announced)

    Staples Center, Los Angeles

    In Round 5 of this clash, Blake Griffin will hit his home floor and find new energy within himself. Doing what Zach Randolph did to him in the previous game, Griffin will muscle his way to a number of rebounds.

    The Clippers have missed this type of effort on the glass from the Oklahoma product. He averaged just 9.2 rebounds per 36 minutes this campaign and had 28 games with double digits in boards, 13 fewer than 2011-12.

    As he succeeds on the boards, the third-year pro won't fail his team in the scoring aspect. He'll make Randolph look his 32 years of age, bouncing around him to dunk and lob accurate mid-range jumpers.

    Griffin punished the Grizz by punching in deuces in Games 2 and 4 last year, inserting 22 and 30 points in those games, respectively.

    Grizzlies fans may be relieved that the men in the three shades of blue were able to thwart him until this point. On the other hand, Clippers fans will find relief in the fact that their team remains in the playoffs.

    Score Prediction: Clippers 101, Grizzlies 90

Game 6

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    Friday, May 3 (time and station to be announced)

    FedEx Forum, Memphis

    The Clippers will return the Game 6 favor that the Grizz relayed last year, slugging away at a slow pace near the 87.2-possessions-per-48-minute rate in the May 11, 2012, affair. The leading team in steals will force Memphis into 20 turnovers as they did in last year's Game 6, but Lionel Hollins' squad won't survive them this time.

    Chris Paul will have his way in all aspects of the game, picking up a few steals, driving to the basket for several scores and distributing the ball at will.

    Tony Allen and Mike Conley will force him to turn it over a few times, but that won't stack up to his dozen assists.

    Aside from Paul's assault, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will partner to seal off the inside. As he often does, Randolph will mimic Gasol's silencing steps to keep L.A. shooters out of the paint.

    The Clippers assert control of the game in the last two minutes. Paul and Caron Butler toss up timely open jumpers to give their squad some space late.

    Los Angeles maintains poise by hitting free throws as the Grizzlies try to foul their way back.

    As the players march off the court, fans of the "grit 'n' grind" are just about ready to call for the head of their team's contract-year head coach. Alas, Hollins has another game to avoid blame.

    Score Prediction: Clippers 95, Grizzlies 92

Game 7

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    Sunday, May 5 (time and station to be announced)

    Staples Center, Los Angeles

    In the deciding game, the winner will arise as the team that can get more out of a scarce number of possessions. Many of the sets will be excruciatingly slow, making even a seven-point margin seem like a hard-earned comfortable margin.

    Last year's Game 7 between these two teams saw the Grizzlies come out flat and shooting poorly. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph shot 15 and 25 percent, respectively, on a combined 25 shots. Memphis shot 32.5 percent as a team.

    While L.A. and Memphis will grind so hard that they could manage less than the 154 points they joined to score in that game, they'll be more efficient than they were that day.

    Marc Gasol will take some passes from Conley and thread them past DeAndre Jordan to his frontcourt partner Randolph for buckets.

    On the other end, Blake Griffin will stay disciplined enough to keep his fight with Randolph down low, muscling his way to several dunks.

    Late in the game, the Grizz pry the game open as Conley and Tony Allen rip a couple of steals from Chris Paul for fast-break points. Even in the grittiest game of the year to date, Lionel Hollins' team flashes its transition game.

    As the clock drains out, the inevitable topics begin—practically the same if fate were reversed—about whether a coach (Vinny Del Negro) and a star (Chris Paul) will stay while pundits suddenly realize how well-matched Memphis is with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Score prediction: Grizzlies 89, Clippers 83