This is by far the most competitive first round playoff series in the Western Conference. The Clippers controlled their destiny for home court in this series, but lost their final two games on the road to let it slip away. Memphis carries the title of the “team nobody wants to face” in these playoffs. This series should be a dandy.
How the Grizzlies can win: Shut down CP3. It’s been made very clear throughout the regular season that the Clippers go as Chris Paul goes. If Memphis can make it difficult for CP3 to get his teammates involved early, frustration can grow into poor play. Tony Allen is a player for Memphis who has a history of being a nuisance defensively, but he may not have the foot speed to keep up with the speedy Paul. Both teams have superb athletes, and it will be interesting to see how Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph of Memphis match up with the Clippers Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. If Rudy Gay continues to score the way he did throughout the regular season, the Grizzlies will be in good shape.
How the Clippers can win: Let CP3 be a playmaker and limit the turnovers. The first statement is a no-brainer. Paul is the Clippers best player and sometimes reserves the bulk of his scoring for the 4th quarter. In this series, he is going to have to get involved early and often when the rest of Lob City struggles. Also of importance is the turnover battle. Memphis was #1 in the league at forcing turnovers throughout the regular season. They clog the lanes and make interior passes from the perimeter difficult. CP3 has a great assist-to-turnover ratio, and will have to continue to take care of the ball to keep the Clippers in it.
Our prediction: This should be a fun series. Both teams have exciting athletes to watch and it wouldn’t be a surprise if either team ended up winning this series. However, the Grizzlies are 22-10 since the All-Star break and are currently riding a six-game winning streak into these playoffs. The Clippers have been sleep walking for most of the second half of the season, and seemed to have lost their mojo from early on in the year. Memphis bounces Lob City in six games.