The No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the West has not disappointed. The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers have proven they are two of the most even teams throughout the NBA.
After their first-round series went seven games last postseason, it seems as if they’re headed there again in 2013.
Los Angeles took the first two games at the Staples Center to jump out to a quick series lead. Memphis responded by winning the next two games to protect their home court.
Pivotal Game 5 is Tuesday night, back in L.A. Both organizations realize how important this game is to gaining control of the series and advancing to the next round.
Although many might give the series edge to Chris Paul and the Clippers, the Grizzles are actually the better all-around team. Through their first four playoff games, Memphis has had a different player lead the team in scoring.
Jerryd Bayless took the honors in Game 1. Mike Conley scored 28 points in the second game. Zach Randolph dropped 27 in Game 3, and defensive player of the year Marc Gasol matched Randolph in Game 4 with 24 points.
With balanced scoring, Memphis becomes much harder to defeat because the Clippers can’t focus their defense on one player or area.
Also, the frontcourt combination of Gasol and Randolph has created numerous issues for the Clippers. The two have combined to average more than 37 points, 15 rebounds and five assists per game thus far in the playoffs.
In AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker’s piece on ESPN.com, Chris Paul discussed the Grizzlies duo. "It would probably be impossible to find another big-man combination like that in the league," Paul said. "They're like two old-school big guys. So it's going to take a collective unit.”
Defense will be a key factor for L.A. because the team has scored more than 100 points only once in the postseason. It will be highly beneficial for them to come out strong in the first quarter of Game 5 to gain an actual home-court advantage to make things tough for Memphis.
Beyond the Grizzlies advantage in the paint, point guard Mike Conley has been able to keep up with Chris Paul’s stat line too. The former Buckeye has averaged three more assists per game in the playoffs, and now nearly averages a double-double.
Analysts may disagree, but I think Game 5 is just about a must-win game for Los Angeles. If Memphis can squeak out a victory, look for them to end the series back home in Game 6.