The Grizzlies made quick work of the Clippers this year.
Although some Clippers like Chris Paul came to play, veterans like Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups were nearly non-existent. The first round collapse brought to light many questions regarding the team’s postseason performance.
Fans and analysts have been picking apart the many compelling plot lines of this series, and it is time to debunk myth from reality. We will track some of the major story-lines that came about from the context of the postseason, and evaluate whether they are fact or fiction.
Is Mr. Big Shot in the Clippers' future?
Fact vs. Fiction: Fiction.
The postseason reality is that Mr. Big Shot scored an average of just 6.2 PPG on 30.6 percent shooting from the field. While Billups does provide intrinsic value to the team through veteran leadership and championship savvy, the guard is clearly not what he once was before going down with an Achilles injury in February 2012.
Given that Billups ate into young backup Eric Bledsoe’s minutes, management should highly consider whether bringing back Billups will curtail Mini LeBron’s development. Obviously, Chris Paul’s unrestricted free agency magnifies this question.
Although Billups had his moments this season, re-signing him only handicaps young players’ development and puts a strain on the salary cap.
Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph play a physical style.
Fact vs. Fiction: Fiction
Breakdown: The Grit and Grind Grizzlies hang their hat on their physical style of play. Their old school brand of basketball is a striking difference from Lob City’s high-powered finesse and pyrotechnics.
Blake Griffin's postseason performance suggested that Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol might have bullied him in the post. While he could contain neither Randolph nor Gasol on defense, he was not completely neutralized in the postseason.
Although a high ankle sprain derailed his performances in Games 5 and 6, Griffin still played with the energy and aggression that Clipper Nation had grown accustomed to. A late game scrum with Randolph in Game 6 demonstrated that Griffin would not back down from a physical challenge.
Although BG could certainly benefit from improvements in both his team and individual defense, he was not the reason that the Clips could not handle Memphis’ burly front line.
Vinny Del Negro had a forgettable coaching performance.
Fact vs. Fiction: Fact
Breakdown: Vinny Del Negro’s suspect coaching decisions certainly contributed to the Clippers’ postseason demise.
Del Negro routinely played questionable lineups, and left his star players out far too long in close games. While a ten-man rotation might have worked fine in the regular season, Del Negro should have given Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe more burn.
Prior to his ankle injury, Griffin had actually seen his minutes decrease relative to the regular season. Bledsoe, a Mike Conley stopper during the regular-season, failed to receive consistent minutes in the playoffs.
Even Del Negro’s X’s and O’s were questionable.
The coach never found a solution to containing Randolph on the low-block, experimenting with quick double-teams and a zone, but never sticking to any particular strategy.
Del Negro made no significant adjustments until Game 6, where Willie Green and Grant Hill were thrust into big moments. Sixth Man of the Year candidate and instant-offense provider Jamal Crawford played just 12 minutes total in the Grizzlies’ close-out win.
Barring something unforeseen, Del Negro should have seen his last moments in Lob City this postseason.
What happened to the Clippers' defense in the postseason?
Fact vs. Fiction: Fact
Breakdown: During the regular-season the Clippers boasted a top-ten defense, with a Pacific Division leading defensive rating of 101.0.
Behind thievery experts Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe, the Clips lead the NBA in steals per game at 9.6. Memphis’ questionable play-making and anemic regular-season offensive rating of 101.7 was conceivably a good matchup for the Clippers.
Contrary to their regular-season reputation, the Grizzlies bludgeoned Lob City down low, and exposed the Clips’ defensive weaknesses in the half court. The Clippers’ defensive rating ballooned to 109.7 in six games against the Grizzlies.
That rating would have been the worst in the regular-season.
Ultimately, the Clips could not stop the Grizzlies in the paint. Low possession games and brutal half court sets played to Memphis’ advantage, as the Clips’ defense fell apart.
The Clippers' postseason performance was a letdown after their regular-season success.
Fact vs. Fiction: Faction
Breakdown: Despite the tremendous success of the regular-season, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Clippers might be best remembered for their early first-round exit.
The high points of the season should not be undervalued. From a 17-game winning streak, to a sweep of the rival Los Angeles Lakers and the first-ever Pacific Division crown in franchise history, the Clippers had a season to remember.
Nevertheless, the Clips certainly regressed in the postseason.
The Clips lost home-court advantage and were knocked out in six quick games against the same Memphis team they matched up against last year. Last postseason the Clips overachieved, beating Memphis in seven games, bookended by road wins at the FedEx Forum.
Should Chris Paul choose to leave Los Angeles this summer, the Clips will look back at the postseason disappointment as a key reason for his departure.
Although the Clips played well during the regular-season, they certainly peaked too early. Expectations were paramount come playoff time, and Lob City crumbled under the pressure.