Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 5/1/13
Despite taking an early two-game lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in their Western Conference quarterfinal matchup, the Los Angeles Clippers have fallen into a rut that has nearly cost them their playoff lives. While Chris Paul and company are still quite capable of playing on into the second round, the NBA odds are against them. Thanks to the sheer depth of their Memphis counterparts, the Clippers have had no choice but to look on helplessly as they were first equaled and ultimately passed in the series. It’s time to hit the panic button now that L.A. big man Blake Griffin has a sprained ankle to nurse, as well. Now a single loss away from elimination, the Clips are in an intriguing position. The roster, once considered capable of pushing itself out on a deep postseason run, could be golfing by the end of the week. Alternatively, a Game 6 L.A. victory would put both teams back in front of the Staples Center crowd — something the Clippers would look desperately to capitalize on this time. Until the Game 5 Memphis win, each team had taken care of business on their respective home courts. If, as the adage goes, a given series doesn’t begin until the first team wins on the road, then get ready for the action. While the Grizzlies have improved their forecast on the NBA futures to the point where they’re now being touted with 18/1 odds of winning it all, the Clippers have slipped to 33/1. That’s just an indicator of where Vegas stands on the game in light of the first five chapters. Don’t let the 2013 results, however, make you forget how the similar pairing went down in the 2012 postseason. After taking an early series lead, the Clippers eventually coughed themselves into a 2-3 hole. They went on to win both Games 6 and 7, proceeding to the Western Conference semifinals. Expect Paul to shoulder much of the load for L.A. this week. The veteran guard is seemingly more and more willing to take on the offensive load without partner Griffin at full health. Whether or not he’ll be enough to trump the Memphis pairing of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, however, remains to be seen. While some of the NBA’s first-round matchups have either come or are coming to an end already, that only clears the schedule so that more people can focus on the ones going down to the wire. This is what we’ve been waiting for.
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