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 SI.com 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 Basketball-Reference.com.