Position-by-Position Matchup Guide for Memphis Grizzlies vs. LA Clippers

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIApril 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives on Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies during a 112-91 Clipper win during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers give fans the most tantalizing first-round matchups, with tough duels at most positions. At two positions, premiere players put each other to the test.

The Grizz and Clips have interesting men opposite each other. L.A. has shooters in various spots on the roster, while Memphis features strong defenders throughout the lineup.

The series likely will turn on whether the Clippers' gunners can overcome the most dynamic defense in the league, as they did to start the redux of last year's seven-game showdown.

Here's a look at each position.

Center: Marc Gasol vs. DeAndre Jordan

Gasol is the type of big man who has fun with Jordan. Gasol is a versatile big who works inside and out, while Jordan makes his home in the post.

The Spaniard has much greater range than his opponent. He takes 47 percent of his shots from 10 feet away or farther. Meanwhile, Jordan takes 98 percent inside 10 feet and 70 percent at the rim.

Also, the Houston native sees a greater drop-off on his success away from the rim.

Gasol placed fifth in defensive rating, allowing 98.5 points per 100 possessions. Thus, he'll be able to neutralize Jordan and help Zach Randolph fend off Blake Griffin.

Edge: Grizzlies

Power Forward: Zach Randolph vs. Blake Griffin

Both Randolph and Griffin have had a smaller influence on offense than one would expect. Griffin averaged 20 points on 14.9 shots per 36 minutes, 0.6 and 0.5 less than last season, respectively.

Randolph put up 19.1 points on 14.1 shots per 36, 3.5 and 2.2 less than his career average, respectively.

Griffin lost his standing on the boards, dropping to 9.2 rebounds per 36, 1.6 fewer than last year. Meanwhile, Randolph regained his, ranking fourth with 11.4 rebounds per game and first with 4.1 offensive rebounds per game.

Both improved defensively, allowing two fewer points per 100 possessions. Randolph stood 13th, allowing 99.5.

His defensive pre-eminence comes from following Gasol's lead.

Griffin may deter Randolph, fighting him inside as he did in Game 1. The third-year pro handled the 12-year veteran well enough to keep him to four rebounds—fewer than five Clippers.

That likely won't hold up the rest of the series, as Randolph is the one of the most aggressive inside men, keen at positioning himself under the rim.

Edge: Grizzlies

Small Forward: Tayshaun Prince vs. Caron Butler

In this exhibit, fans see two 11-year veterans working to maintain their roles.

Butler is more visible. He averaged 10.4 points per game and 15.6 per 36 minutes, compared to Prince's 8.8 per game and 10 per 36 after arriving in Memphis. Butler has a 20.2 percent usage rate, 5 percent higher than Prince's for the Grizzlies.

The former Detroit Piston serves as a glue guy, doing fundamental work and helping on defense. He allowed 103 points per 100 possessions in his 37 games on Beale Street, eight points lower than his 45 in Detroit.

Butler regained his stroke this season, notching a 53.5 percent true shooting rate, 3.4 percent better than in 2011-12.

The Connecticut product did much better than his adversary, scoring 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 11 more than Prince.

This will be a common occurrence in the series.

Edge: Clippers

Shooting Guard: Tony Allen vs. Chauncey Billups

This pairing comes down to whether Billups can endure Allen. Billups, who only played 22 games this season due to injury, will be pushed by the headiest defender in the league.

Allen lays out on every possession, playing passing lanes, pressuring ball-handlers and going for steals and loose balls.

Allen will go at Billups aggressively. He was sixth in steals rate, picking one up in 3.1 percent of possessions. Also, the two-time All-Defensive team honoree was fourth in defensive rating, allowing 98.4 points per 100 possessions.

Billups took advantage of the way Allen cheated off him to play passing lanes in the series opener, going off for 14 points in 21 minutes.

Clippers reporter Madelyn Burke took note of his hot play via Twitter:

Fans should expect Allen to ratchet up the pressure on the 36-year-old.

Edge: Grizzlies

Point Guard: Mike Conley vs. Chris Paul

Aside from the Griffin-Randolph tussle, fans will have the most fun watching Conley and Paul go toe-to-toe. Paul, the undisputed top point guard in the league, is confronted with a steady riser in Conley.

Paul rarely faces a fair challenge, but Conley is the second-best defending point guard behind the man himself. The Ohio State product led the league in steals, placed third in steals per game (2.2, 0.2 behind first-place Paul) and fourth in steals rate (3.4 percent, 0.4 behind second-place Paul).

Both tend to run their offenses slowly, as Conley's Grizzlies run at a league-low 88.3 possessions per 48 minutes and Paul's Clippers rank 19th at 91.1 per 48.

Assist numbers are often unfair to Conley, who averaged 6.1 per game this season, but one can hardly place anyone next to Paul in this category. The eight-year veteran was No. 2 this season in assists per game and is tops among active players.

Paul won big in Game 1, totaling 23 points, seven assists and two steals against 12 points, five assists and two steals for Conley.

However, Conley may bring the matchup closer with his defense.

Edge: Clippers


The Clippers have more shooters on their bench than the Grizzlies. Three L.A. bench players (Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes) each average at least 8.5 points per game while each shooting better than 43 percent from the field.

Crawford is a strong Sixth Man of the Year candidate, averaging 16.5 points per game.

Meanwhile, Jerryd Bayless is the only Memphis reserve in their ballpark, averaging 8.7 points per game. The former Toronto Raptor came alive after the Rudy Gay trade, averaging 12.1 per game.

The top three active Grizz bench scorers (Bayless, Darrell Arthur and Quincy Pondexter) combine for 55 double-digit scoring performances. Crawford (66) has more than all three combined.

Crawford and Bledsoe showed in Game 1 the havoc they'll wreak on the Grizz throughout the series. Bledsoe was perfect on seven shots en route to 15 points.

The Grizzlies' big men haven't made a great impact. Arthur averaged a career-low 6.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. His defense has held up, as he allowed 102 points per 100 possessions.

Ed Davis started his Memphis tenure strong. After arriving from Toronto in the Gay trade, he pulled down 4.4 boards per game and 10.6 per 36.

The two played 16 and 15 minutes per game in the regular season, but will likely see a bit less as the series heats up.

The Clippers' backup big men are less significant. Lamar Odom shot 39.9 percent from the field, but led the team with 99 points allowed per 100 possessions. Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins each played 11 minutes per game.

Edge: Clippers

Coaching: Lionel Hollins vs. Vinny Del Negro

The coaches' styles contrast remarkably. Hollins is demanding, riding his starters hard. Conley, Randolph and Gasol play more than 34 minutes per game. Del Negro goes easier on his guys. Paul led the team with only 33.4 minutes per game.

The Clippers' bench saw more minutes than any other in the regular season.

Del Negro has been the object of criticism from his players. This season, DeAndre Jordan has sulked about the lack of minutes given to him, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Whereas Del Negro has been involved in drama with his players since his days with the Chicago Bulls, Hollins has avoided such trouble with his players. The fourth-year full-time head coach is more apt to call players out.

Last season, he quelled Zach Randolph's complaints about playing off the bench in front of the team by explaining how the team was better off with him as a reserve, per USA Today.

Hollins has had a little more success as a coach. He's improved the Grizzlies' record every year as full-time head coach. That includes two years in which Memphis rallied after losing a key player for an extended period of time.

Hollins has a lower winning percentage (.516) than Del Negro (.533). However, the latter has spent all five seasons in a head coaching capacity, whereas the former spent parts of four seasons as an interim coach. As a head coach, Hollins is 182-131 (.581).

Hence, when Hollins has dealt with his own personnel for an entire season, he's fared much better.

Both have one playoff series victory. Hollins is 10-11 in the playoffs. Del Negro is 9-15 in the postseason.

Edge: Grizzlies

Advanced metrics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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