This is a rematch of last year’s series between the Clippers and the Grizzlies. In Game 1, the Grizzlies were all over the Clippers until LA came back from 26 points to win the game. It was a miraculous comeback. The Clipps ended up taking the series in seven games. This year, the Grizzlies look for revenge.
What L.A. needs to do to win: In last year’s series, the Clippers were the better 4th quarter team. However, the Grizzlies have allowed the least points per game to opponents this year. We know the Clippers are a team that likes to move quickly up and down the court. So it’s a matter of them still being able to do that or not. I guarantee we’ll be seeing a ton of Paul and Crawford together. If Mike Conley is assigned to cover Chris Paul, look for Paul to take advantage of him and try to give the Clippers and edge in this series. If Tony Allen covers Chris Paul, that leaves Conley with Jamal Crawford. Either way, the Clipps will be constantly attacking Conley.
What Memphis needs to do to win: The Grizzlies were a very good team last year. This year, I believe they have made the necessary adjustment to become a great team. The replacement of Tayshaun Prince for Rudy Gay gives them more of a defensive lineup. Marc Gasol, a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, is playing the best defense of his career. Zach Randolph is still producing at a fairly high level. He needs to continue to give the team an advantage on the boards. Memphis will be much more comfortable if they can slow down the pace of the game. Memphis is a better half court team than the Clippers are. If they can stop the Clippers from scoring a lot in transition, it will give Conley a better chance to compete with Chris Paul.
Chris Paul vs. Mike Conley: There is no mistaking that Chris Paul is, by far, the better player. However, as I said before, if the Grizzlies slow down the game it will give Conley a better chance to match up with CP3. Look for Chris Paul to try and control this series. I expect him to put the moves on Conley and score at least 20 points per game. Conley is one of the best in the league at swiping the ball. However, all you can do against Chris Paul is move your feet and stay in front of him.
Blake Griffin vs. Zach Randolph: The Grizzlies tend to succeed when Randolph puts the team on his shoulders. Z-Bo is the team’s best go-to-scorer. He is also a dominant rebounder. Both, him and Griffin, are offensive-minded players. Griffin needs to consistently be able to knock down the mid-range shot. Scoring near the basket won’t always be easy with Gasol defending and Randolph there to secure the rebound.
Can Tony Allen shut down Jamal Crawford? Tony Allen is an excellent perimeter defender. He is great at moving his feet and he gives his matchup no breathing room. However, Jamal Crawford doesn’t care who is guarding him. He loves to fire away. If Allen isn’t a constant for Crawford, then Crawford will keep letting loose.
Prediction: I’m taking a BIG risk here and picking the Grizzlies in Six Games.