Can the L.A. Clippers' offense get past the NBA's best defense?
The Los Angeles Clippers have provided entertainment throughout the entire 2012-13 NBA season. Their offensive attack has been in full swing as they’ve averaged 101.1 points on the year, and their style of play has earned them constant coverage on national highlight reels.
The question is, do they have the offense to take down the Memphis Grizzlies in a seven-game series?
Through two games, the answer appears to be yes, but there’s more basketball to be played as the series has shifted to FedExForum—a place where the Clippers only averaged 95 points per game in the regular season.
In Game 1 of this series, the Clippers did something not many teams have been able to do. They scored triple digits against Memphis, marking just the 11th time that happened all year.
The Grizzlies allowed the fewest points per game in 2012-13, and they’re just 3-8 when they give up at least 100 points. They excel in grind-it-out, low-scoring battles with their flawless rotations, impeccable timing and extreme physicality.
If the Clippers hope to find offensive success in a physical series, they can’t shy away from contact.
Blake Griffin vs Zack Randolph! Two massive giants engaged in a frightful physical altercation over a basketball! This IS the NBA PLAYOFFS!— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) April 23, 2013
Blake Griffin gets a bad rap for being a one-dimensional player. It’s true that he’s primarily defined by his thunderous throwdowns, but his game is continuing to evolve and he’s slowly adding the ability to play in the mid range.
That being said, he must use his developing skill set as a threat and not as a go-to option.
Can the Los Angeles Clippers' offensive attack take down the Memphis Grizzlies in Round 1?
Griffin has Zach Randolph beat in virtually every athletic measure. If he’s willing to put the ball on the floor, face the rim and attack the basket, he’ll have the edge against the slower defender.
According to NBA.com, Griffin shot worse than 40 percent practically everywhere outside of the paint in 2012-13. Inside the key, however, he made 66.11 percent of his looks—an area where he’s attempting two-thirds of his shots in the postseason.
But if Griffin is able to get past Randolph, as he’s shown he can thus far, that's when he has Marc Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year, waiting for him. This is where DeAndre Jordan has to make a sacrifice.
Despite attempting more than 95 percent of his shots in the paint during the regular season (according to NBA.com), Jordan must be willing to step away from the rim when Griffin is on the prowl. It seems counter intuitive to ask the big man to clear out, but getting Gasol away from the basket is crucial, as the Clippers were fifth at scoring in the key during the regular season.
What makes the Grizzlies so dangerous defensively is that the entire squad has seemingly bought into the system. We hear players obligatorily credit their teammates all the time for individual accomplishments, but when Gasol pointed out the defensive culture of the Grizzlies (via Teresa M. Walker of The Associated Press), it’s easy to believe that it’s more than common courtesy.
Luckily for the Clippers, they have a roster full of veterans and know how to break down a defense. They can play in transition, move the ball well and in the first two games of this series, it was their willingness to make the extra pass that helped them earn open looks.
Aside from the occasional Jamal Crawford isolation—or Chris Paul heroics—you don’t see much hero ball from this unit. They average the fourth most assists in the Association, and that’s the mentality that will help them beat lockdown defenses both on the perimeter and at the rim.
If the old adage remains true that defense wins championships, Memphis is in good shape. However, the Clippers have a different saying in mind.
The best offense is a good defense.
When it comes to creating offense, the Clippers don’t just play one side of the court. They’re the fourth-best team in terms of points allowed, second in the postseason in blocks and their swarming defense is going to help alleviate the pressure to score on the other end.
According to teamrankings.com, Los Angeles is eighth in transition scoring, while Memphis is just 16th in defensive transition efficiency. The Grizzlies run the second-slowest pace of any team (according to ESPN), which means L.A. must turn Block City into Lob City any chance it gets.
Game 2 proved that it’s not going to be easy, but L.A. will advance to Round 2 if it can dictate the pace of this series—not the other way around.
These are two extremely talented teams, and while both can change a game defensively, it’s the Clippers’ offense that can put a halt to Memphis’ goal of the NBA Finals.