The Memphis Grizzlies and L.A. Clippers provided NBA fans with an old-school playoff battle on Tuesday night.
It was chippy early, the defense was tenacious with both teams battling it out on both sides of the ball. In the end, the Grizzlies' relentless defense was the real difference-maker in their 103-93 Game 5 win.
The Grizzlies had four starters in double figures— with Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tayshaun Prince and Zach Randolph combining for 81 of the Grizzlies' 103 points.
The Clippers, on the other hand, had only one starter in double digits. That man being Chris Paul, who led the way with a career playoff-high of 35 points.
While the Clippers and Grizzlies kept it close for the majority of the first half, the Grizzlies pulled away in the final few minutes, taking a six-point game into the locker room at the break.
Without Chris Paul's ridiculous play in the first half, with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-of-2 from beyond the arc), the Clippers would've easily been down double digits in the first half.
The rest of the Clippers lineup committed nine turnovers in the first two quarters, which led to seven easy points for the Grizzlies.
Memphis had a much more balanced attack in the first half, with Mike Conley and Zach Randolph in double figures, with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Grizzlies moved the ball around the perimeter and fed it into the paint to get easy looks around the rim, which led to their 20 first-half attempts from the charity stripe.
You could chalk that up to poor defense by the Clippers, but in reality it was just an intelligent and aggressive offense by a well-coached and disciplined Grizzlies team.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had a rough first half, combining for just six points and seven rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting. Either Griffin's ankle was really bothering him, or his performance against Marc Gasol is an indicator of just how solid the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year truly is.
With about 7:30 left in the third quarter, Blake Griffin went to the locker room with the high ankle sprain he suffered in practice on Monday, and didn't return.
That meant CP3 was the Clippers' sole hope at leading a valiant comeback. After scoring 21 points in the first half, Paul added 10 points in the third quarter. Unfortunately, Paul fell short in the fourth quarter, scoring just four points in the final 12 minutes.
With 10:23 remaining in the game, Marc Gasol picked up his fifth personal, which sent the Grizzlies big man to the bench.
That would lead you to think that the Clippers went on a massive run at that point. Well, the opposite actually happened. The Grizzlies closed the game out over the next five minutes, extending their lead to nine points with under six minutes left in the fourth.
Zach Randolph exploded with 10 points in Gasol's absence, leading to a solid 25-point and 11-rebound performance.
Tayshaun Prince also dropped seven points in the fourth quarter, including an absolute dagger three ball with under 1:30 left to put the Grizzlies up for good.
In the end, the Grizzlies simply overpowered the Clippers with a tight, tenacious and consistent defense that ultimately fueled their transition offense on the other end.
With Game 6 taking place at FedExForum in Memphis on Friday night, you can bet that both teams will be bringing all the grit, determination and intensity possible. It's going to be a special game.
Chris Paul had more points in a half than he's averaged throughout the series.
Chris Paul with 21 points at the half.He was averaging 18.4 PPG in the series— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 1, 2013
I'm not saying that the Clippers aren't a tough and physical team, but the Grizzlies are just imposing their will against them on both sides of the ball. It's the difference between a physical team and disciplined physical team.
A perfect image of this Clippers-Grizzlies series. twitpic.com/cn8z3b— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) May 1, 2013
Seriously, so much contact here. Could hear the crash between Z-Bo and Blake and Griffin tried to run in for offensive reb.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 1, 2013
While Vinny Del Negro can't go out on the court and will his team to victory, he certainly has been ineffective as head coach.
Lousy coaching job by VDN. Playoffs are "adjust or die" and he's not adjusting. No hidden wrinkles, no lineup tweaks, no surprises, nothing.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 1, 2013
Vinny Del Negro should be sweating right now. #hotseat— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 1, 2013
Blake Griffin left Game 5 midway through the third quarter, and the ankle injury could have a serious impact on the series outcome—though it may not be the impact you'd think.
The Clippers average 8 fewer points per 48 minutes when Blake Griffin is on the court, compared to when he is off the court.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 1, 2013
Pau Gasol shows his support for his brother Marc on Twitter. Precious brotherly love for Marc, who ended the night with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
I'm enjoying watching @marcgasol and the Grizzlies play a great game! Let's see if they can finish the game up with a huge win on the road.— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) May 1, 2013
Zach Randolph stepped up big time in the final period with his fellow big man on the pine.
Memphis is no joke. 2 dominant post players, 1 of the best point guards in the league, a great coach and solid D. Legit Finals contender.— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) May 1, 2013
With the chance to close things out at home in Game 6, it looks like the odds are now in the Grizzlies' favor.