Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/2/13
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. For three games, the Clippers have tried in vain to slow down the Memphis Grizzlies in their first-round Western Conference playoff series. For three games, they have failed miserably, unable to control the backboards, stop big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol or prevent Memphis from getting points in the paint. So maybe, as Chris Paul suggested Friday, the Clippers need to get physical and throw the first punch Friday night in Game 6. If they dont, the best-of-seven series could be over quickly. Weve got to be the initiators, Paul said. Weve got to hit first. We cant react. Its just like when youre a little kid. The teacher doesnt see who hits you. They see when you hit the kid back. So at the end of the day, weve got to go out there with the mindset that were going to be the aggressors. They might have to do it without forward Blake Griffin, their leading scorer, who has a high right ankle sprain and will be a game-time decision. Whether he plays or not, the Clippers ability to force a seventh game will likely depend on these three factors: 1. Lamar Odom: If Griffin sits, Odom will start. If Griffin plays but is limited, Odom will play quite a bit. Odom is a capable passer, shooter and rebounder, but his primary focus will be shutting down Randolph, who is averaging 25.3 points and 5.0 offensive rebounds in the past three games, all Memphis wins. Hes tough, Odom said. Hes kind of like an old-school, throwback type of player. He doesnt have to dunk the ball or throw behind-the-back passes. He knows what he has and he goes to it time and time again. We just have to make it tough on him. That job will probably fall to Odom, who must keep Randolph off the offensive glass and close down his easy paths to the basket. 2. Chauncey BillupsCaron Butler: Where have they been? The two Clippers starters combined for just eight points in Game 5, all coming in the first quarter. Granted, their minutes have been limited because coach Vinny Del Negro has opted to use Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes off the bench, but quick starts by Billups and Butler could prove critical on Friday if they make baskets early. Weve got to make shots, weve got to spread the court, Del Negro said. Theyre not guarding some of our guys, so weve got to do a good job with some of our spacing and try to get Jamal open. Everyone has got to be aggressive, but we can only do that if we rebound and run and get some easy ones and get them back on their heels a little bit. Billups earned the nickname Mr. Big Shot because of his history of making important baskets. The Clippers will have to make a few of them to stay alive. 3. Run, run, run: The Clippers have been able to get out on the break sporadically, but their inability to rebound consistently off Grizzlies misses has kept them from taking advantage of their speed and quickness. When their second unit, led by guard Eric Bledsoe, moves quickly in transition, the Clippers wear down opponents. They did it during the regular season, but they havent been able to do it successfully against Memphis. Rebounding, running and making defensive stops will go a long way to ensure theres a Game 7. If not, the Clippers season will end a lot sooner than anyone expected.
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