Chris Paul has elevated his game this postseason. What Clippers have followed suit?
After dropping three straight games to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Los Angeles Clippers changed face from one of the deepest and most dominant teams in the league to a squad lacking the toughness and mental fortitude necessary to be considered a title contender.
With the exception of Chris Paul, the Clippers have seen tremendous drop-off from the rest of their players. The oft-criticized Vinny Del Negro is once again on the hot seat, as his inability to counter Lionel Hollins’ adjustments has been critical to the Clips’ recent struggles.
Other than Paul, who has contributed in an effort to lift LAC past the Grizz? Who looks to have folded under the pressure of the postseason spotlight?
We will grade all Clipper rotation players based off of criteria including postseason performance relative to regular-season numbers, impact on the game and sustainable success.
Del Negro's coaching has been called into question again this postseason.
Del Negro succeeded early, and other than a few speed bumps with Paul out of the lineup, the Clips enjoyed their best season in franchise history. Lob City finished with a 56-26 record, swept the rival Los Angeles Lakers and even won its first Pacific Division crown.
Going up 2-0 on the Grizzlies, all seemed well in Lob City.
Since then, the Clips dropped three straight games by an average margin of 14.3 PPG. Del Negro has failed to get his lineups in order and consistently failed to counter the high-low attack of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Credit the poise and execution of the Grizzlies’ big men, but Del Negro is once again getting out-coached by Hollins. If the Clips lose this series, Del Negro should be on his way out.
Matt Barnes has struggled against Z-Bo and the Grizzlies.
Regular-season averages: 10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 25.7 MPG
Postseason averages: 8.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 25.0 MPG
Breakdown: Despite a career year, Matt Barnes has been unable to get it going in the postseason.
Barnes has scored in double figures just twice this series. His underwhelming 43.3 percent shooting is a testament to the Grizzlies defense, as well as his shooting woes.
Where Barnes has really suffered is from behind the arc. A 34.2-percent shooter on the year, the UCLA product has converted just one of his 10 attempts from downtown.
Where has Tough Juice been this postseason?
Regular-season averages: 10.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 24.1 MPG
Postseason averages: 7.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 20.6 MPG
Breakdown: Seeing his minutes go down by nearly four per game, Caron Butler has had a mediocre playoffs.
Butler has scored in double digits just twice this series. His anemic 2.6 RPG are contributing to the deficit the Clips are facing on the boards.
The human foul machine in action.
Regular-season averages: 3.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 11.1 MPG
Postseason averages: 2.2 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 7.4 MPG
Breakdown: Ryan Hollins has continued his role of high-energy foul machine against the Grizzlies.
For the most part, Hollins has struggled this series. However, much of that is a reflection of his routine offensive struggles than it is a change in Memphis’ defensive system.
Ronny Turiaf's hustle has never been questioned.
Regular-season averages: 1.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 10.8 MPG
Postseason averages: 3.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 11.8 MPG
Breakdown: Ronny Turiaf has provided high energy and hustle in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Clips, his offensive contributions have been limited. Like all the other LAC bigs, Turiaf has been unable to contain any of the Grizzlies low-post scorers.
Lamar Odom has only demonstrated flashes of brilliance.
Regular-season averages: 4.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 19.7 MPG
Postseason averages: 4.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 16.8 MPG
Breakdown: The postseason has been a continuation of the second consecutive disappointing year for Lamar Odom.
In the playoffs, Odom is still scoring under five points a game and hauling in just 4.2 boards per contest. One of the Clips’ better defenders, Odom has been destroyed by Gasol and Randolph on the block.
Despite shooting just 40 percent on shots outside of the paint, Odom has taken 71.4 percent of his field goals on these low-efficient jump shots.
Odom’s performance has to be unnerving for any member of Clipper Nation that hoped for an LO renaissance upon his return to Tinseltown.
Chauncey Billups has been nearly non-existent this postseason.
Regular-season averages: 8.4 PPG, 2.2 APG, 19.0 MPG
Postseason averages: 6.6 PPG, 1.0 APG, 19.4 MPG
Breakdown: Unable to find any consistency, Chauncey Billups has really struggled this postseason.
After a big Game 1 in which Billups scored 14 points on 50-percent shooting, Mr. Big Shot has been nearly non-existent.
He is shooting 31.3 percent from the field and has demonstrated zero capacity to stay with defensive assignment Tony Allen. Billups disappeared in Games 4 and 5, scoring just three points total on 1-of-8 shooting.
Maybe it is time to give Willie Green some minutes.
The Clips need an aggressive and patient Eric Bledsoe.
Regular-season averages: 8.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 20.4 MPG
Postseason averages: 7.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 17.6 MPG
Breakdown: Playing limited minutes this postseason, Eric Bledsoe has been unable to find sustainable success.
In a Game 1 blowout, Bledsoe eviscerated the Grizzlies backcourt, scoring 15 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Despite this, Mini LeBron continues to lose out to minutes in favor of veteran Chauncey Billups.
While some of this may be attributed to his postseason inexperience and his frenetic pace, the Clips could use some organized chaos to pressure Mike Conley on the perimeter.
Marc Gasol pushing around DJ has been the story of this series.
Regular-season averages: 8.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 24.5 MPG
Postseason averages: 3.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 25.4 MPG
Breakdown: Coming off of a career season, DeAndre Jordan has been nothing short of awful against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jordan has demonstrated no ability to contain neither Gasol nor Randolph. DJ fumbles passes in the low post and easily loses his cool.
He has been completely unable to score, averaging just 3.4 PPG per contest. His incredible 64.3 percent regular-season average from the field has plummeted to just 42.1 percent. Jordan is yet to score more than six points in a game this series. As such, many critics’ sentiments of Jordan’s immaturity are coming to light in the Clippers’ downturn.
Had he made an appearance in Memphis in either Game 3 or 4, then the Clips might not have their backs against the wall heading back to Tennessee.
Has Jamal Crawford's killer crossover been neutralized by the Grizzlies' defense?
Regular-season averages: 16.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 29.3 MPG
Postseason averages: 13.0 PPG, 1.8 APG, 29.8 MPG
Breakdown: The Sixth Man of the Year contender, Jamal Crawford has struggled against the Grizzlies' tight perimeter defense.
Crawford is still scoring 13.0 PPG, but some of his shot selection has been questionable. Although Crawford might convert some of his contested mid-range jumpers, those low-efficient shots ultimately play into the Grizzlies defense.
In low-possession games, every shot counts. The Grizzlies have found a way to contain Crawford’s offensive firepower.
Griffin's injury was a crucial blow for Lob City.
Regular-season averages: 18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 32.5 MPG
Postseason averages: 14.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG
Breakdown: Suffering a high ankle sprain before Game 5, Blake Griffin was limited to just four points in 20 minutes of action.
Even before Game 5, Griffin was having an underwhelming series. He scored more than 20 points in just one game and has been unable to slow down neither Gasol nor Randolph. Chalk some of it up to Del Negro’s rotations that have seen Griffin’s minutes go down nearly five from his regular-season average of 32.5.
Nevertheless, Griffin has shown aggression against the Grizzlies’ burly front line, even if it has not always translated to wins.
All eyes will be on the Point God in Game 6.
Regular-season averages: 16.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 9.7 APG, 33.4 MPG
Postseason averages: 21.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 36.6 MPG
Breakdown: Continuing to elevate his game, Chris Paul has been single-handedly keeping Lob City alive this postseason.
He appears to be one of the only players leaving everything on the court. His numbers demonstrate his aggressive attack, as he is scoring nearly five points more per contest in the playoffs than in the regular season.
While his assists are down, CP3 has needed to pick up the scoring burden in light of Griffin’s ankle injury. Paul has worked miracles for the Clips before, and now they need another one.
Lob City desperately needs some divine intervention from the Point God in Game 6.