Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIApril 21, 2013

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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    In Game 1 of the first-round series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers, L.A. emerged with a monumental 112-91 victory. As we expected, both teams came out with intensity and physicality as they looked to gain an early advantage in the 2013 NBA playoffs.

    L.A. walks away with the 1-0 series lead.

    Eight separate players committed at least four fouls in this game, which is a testament to just how physical both sides played. With that being known, the Clippers managed to pull out this win because they proved to be the more powerful team on this evening.

    L.A. grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and won despite throwing down just one dunk. So how did this brutal affair go down?

Point Guards

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    Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: C

    With Chris Paul on top of his game, Mike Conley had the chance to prove that he can hold his own against the elite for the second consecutive season. Despite stepping up with late-game heroics in 2012 against the Los Angeles Clippers, however, Conley's three-ball simply wasn't falling.

    Fortunately, that wasn't all he had to offer.

    Conley played well offensively, finishing with 12 points and five assists on 5-of-11 shooting. He also picked up two steals and only committed two turnovers, which is an impressive feat when matched up against CP3.

    With that being said, Conley simply could not match Paul's production and failed to step up defensively against the superstar—in this one, that was more important than offense.

     

    Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers: A+

    It's no secret that the Los Angeles Clippers will need Chris Paul to be at his best in order to win this series. It's an as equally understood fact that Paul is up to the task, as he has career postseason averages of 20.5 points and 10.1 assists in 34 appearances.

    Saturday night, it was more of the brilliant same, as Paul stepped up both as a scorer and facilitator.

    Paul was solid in the first half, but it was his play in the third quarter that made his night so special. CP3 made L.A.'s first three baskets to open the second half and helped extend the floor with a step-back three.

    That set the stage for CP3 to finish with 23 points, seven assists, two rebounds and two steals on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Shooting Guards

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    Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies: C+

    It's a well-known fact that Tony Allen's nightly contributions will range far beyond those that show up on a stat sheet. While there are nights in which his production is welcome, Allen is often praised for his defensive versatility.

    Saturday night, Allen's defense was ineffective for the most part against Chauncey Billups, but his offense was a pleasant surprise.

    Allen finished with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. He got into the lane and scored at times when the Grizzlies' usual suspects were silent, which was a quality boost to their morale.

    Unfortunately, Allen's offense wasn't enough, and his defensive efforts were equally insufficient—a victim of team success.

     

    Chauncey Billups, Los Angeles Clippers: A

    Entering the 2013 NBA playoffs, the biggest difference from last season was expected to be the presence of Chauncey Billups. Billups, the 2004 NBA Finals MVP, is the type of experienced veteran with a championship pedigree that L.A. needs.

    In Game 1 of the Clippers' series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Billups proved worthy of the hype.

    Matched up against a team that ranked dead last in three-point field goals made, Billups manned the perimeter and came up with two huge treys. That includes one in the first half in which Billups pump-faked the defender, temporarily lost his balance, gathered himself and drained one from the corner.

    A testament to Billups' poise and veteran prowess.

    14 points may not seem like an elite scoring output, but Billups managed to put those numbers up against a tough Memphis defense. More importantly, he did so in just 21 minutes of action.

    If this is the Mr. Big Shot whom L.A. will be seeing all postseason long, the Clippers will be dangerous.

Small Forwards

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    Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Grizzlies: D

    Tayshaun Prince joins Chauncey Billups as alumni of the 2004 NBA champion Detroit Pistons who are participating in this series. Unlike Billups, however, Prince was unable to get anything going on the offensive end of the floor.

    Perhaps more importantly, Prince was unable to slow down Caron Butler.

    Although he seemed to be the only Memphis starter who stayed out of foul trouble, Prince failed to stop Butler without fouling. This enabled the Clippers to receive offense while their stars struggled, thus creating the opportunity for victory.

    L.A. cashed in and Prince's lack of efficiency was a major reason why.

     

    Caron Butler, Los Angeles Clippers: A

    Every now and then, the Los Angeles Clippers struggle on offense and they need an unsung hero to step up and shoulder the load. As has often been the case in 2012-13, it was small forward Caron Butler who did that during the first half of this one.

    From three-point field goals to slashing finishes, Butler was nothing short of the X-factor in this one.

    Butler finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and a steal on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor. Butler did so while spacing the floor with an early three that resulted in L.A. being able to spread the floor and find other scorers throughout the duration of the evening.

    If that's not enough, Butler held Tayshaun Prince to 1-of-5 shooting—a purely brilliant evening from the veteran swingman.

Power Forwards

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    Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies: C+

    This was the individual matchup that everyone was waiting for, as All-Star power forwards were set to go to battle. As expected, this was a clash of physical players who refused to give an inch in terms of power and brute force.

    By an individual measure, Z-Bo won Game 1—sort of.

    Randolph finished with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. More importantly, he played Blake Griffin well defensively and forced him to foul out due to the physical nature of their one-on-one matchup.

    Unfortunately, that clash down low led to Randolph grabbing just four rebounds and committing five fouls of his own—not what Memphis needed on a night in which L.A. grabbed 14 offensive boards.

     

    Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: C-

    Blake Griffin failed to show up offensively, but that's expected due to his matchup. He and Zach Randolph have a long history of playing each other in a physical manner, and that led to Griffin shifting into more of a defensive mindset.

    Surprisingly, Griffin stepped up on that end of the floor—until he got into foul trouble.

    Griffin picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter and was thus delegated to the bench. During the fourth quarter, Griffin fouled out on a controversial charge call.

    Even if you argue that the foul should have gone Griffin's way, he must make smarter decisions in Game 2. Either that or the referees must acknowledge one simple fact.

    This is postseason basketball, so let them play.

Centers

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    Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: C

    Marc Gasol struggled from the field and failed to rebound at anything close to the rate expected of him. With that being said, Gasol made brilliant feeds out of the post and finished with seven assists.

    That includes a no-look bounce pass in the first quarter and a touch pass to set up Mike Conley in the third.

    Gasol continued his work during the fourth quarter, beating a double-team in order to find a diving Quincy Pondexter. Gasol would dish out another assist on the very next possession.

    Unfortunately, his shooting touch was not on par with his passing abilities.

    16 points and seven assists may look nice, but when a center grabs two rebounds, commits four fouls and shoots 4-of-12 from the field, there aren't many positives. Fortunately, Gasol managed to maintain his poise defensively.

    It just wasn't enough against this high-powered Clippers squad.

     

    DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers: B

    DeAndre Jordan has made tremendous strides this season, developing into a viable option in the post. Against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Marc Gasol, however, Jordan didn't attempt a single field goal until he threw down a monster dunk with six minutes, one second remaining in the game.

    An odd turn of events for the man who led the NBA in field-goal percentage.

    With that being said, Jordan played phenomenal defense in his own right and held Gasol to 4-of-12 shooting from the field. This comes by way of Jordan's timely decision-making in terms of pressing up on Gasol or sagging off.

    While Gasol beat him with his passing, Jordan did not allow Gasol to get into his own rhythm as a scorer at any point of the evening.

Sixth Men

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    Jerryd Bayless, Memphis Grizzlies: A

    Jamal Crawford may be the Sixth Man of the Year candidate, but Jerryd Bayless is the key reserve who made the loudest statement Saturday night. Whether he was shooting from the perimeter or driving the lane, Bayless scored at a high rate.

    Memphis needed every point.

    Bayless finished with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. That accounted for nearly half of Memphis' three-point field goals and created the offensive spark Memphis needed to make a comeback.

    It's not Bayless' fault that the Grizz were unable to.

    Bayless was huge, getting into the lane and using glass to score over L.A.'s bigs. He also stepped outside and drained jump shots over L.A.'s elite perimeter defenders.

    This was a superb return to the postseason for Bayless, who averaged 13.5 points during the 2010 NBA playoffs with the Portland Trail Blazers.

     

    Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers: B

    When it comes to scoring the basketball, few players in the NBA are as gifted as Jamal Crawford. Saturday night was no exception, as Crawford sliced and diced Memphis' elite defense for 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

    Crawford also sparked the game-deciding run with a beautiful feed to Matt Barnes during the fourth quarter.

    Crawford may not have topped 20 points, but he served his purpose by draining a three and attacking the basket. On two-point field goals, Crawford managed to go 4-of-7, including a crafty finish in the lane against the Grizzlies' vaunted bigs.

    Something tells us Crawford will be scoring all postseason long.

Reserves

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    Memphis Grizzlies: B+

    Outside of sixth man Jerryd Bayless, the Memphis Grizzlies received a limited contribution offensively. Keyon Dooling, Quincy Pondexter and Ed Davis all managed to produce at a reasonable level, but they were going up against one of the best benches in basketball.

    Saturday night, it just wasn't enough.

    Davis played well, tallying six points and six rebounds in 13 minutes. Furthermore, the Grizzlies' second unit combined for five three-point field goals.

    The starters failed to make a single one.

    Dooling converted two of those threes, which helped ease the pressure on Mike Conley Jr. against Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. For all of his contributions, however, came Darrell Arthur picking up four fouls in 12 minutes.

    It was a mixed array of contributions, but it wasn't the bench's fault by any stretch of the imagination.

     

    Los Angeles Clippers: A+

    It's no secret that the Los Angeles Clippers' greatest strength is their depth. Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Clippers reserves stepped up once again, as they helped complement the starting lineup's push for a win.

    A collective 49 points, 23 rebounds and 10 assists is a statistical sign of their impact on the game.

    While Jamal Crawford's contributions were anticipated, it wasn't just the sixth man who stepped up big. Instead, it was players such as Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins.

    Perhaps no individual shined as bright as Bledsoe, who put up 13 points, six rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes of action.

    Collectively, the Clippers' second unit kept big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in check as Blake Griffin fell into foul trouble. While Odom may not have shot the ball well, he teamed with Turiaf and Hollins to provide a quality effort on the glass.

    Together, L.A.'s second unit managed to lead the Clippers to an impressive Game 1 victory.