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May 12, 2012
Playoff Prospectus
Grizzlies' Inside Game

by Dan Feldman

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Memphis 90, at L.A. Clippers 88 (Series tied, 3-3)
Pace: 87.8
Offensive Ratings: Memphis 97.8, L.A. Clippers 105.4

Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies in shots for the first time this series, and Memphis couldn’t have picked a better time to feature its two star big men. The steadiness of Randolph (18 points on 8-of-17 shooting with 16 rebounds, three blocks, a steal and an assist) and Gasol (23 points on 9-of-16 shooting with three assists, all to Randolph, a steal and a block) allowed the Grizzlies to weather a stormy and chaotic game.

Even with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin at something less than full strength due to injury, the Clippers took advantage of their athleticism by hawking the balling, disrupting passing lanes and just pressuring Memphis. In all, Los Angeles forced 22 turnovers, including 13 steals. Really, the Clippers picked on everybody.

Mike Conley (four turnovers), Tony Allen (three turnovers), O.J. Mayo (three turnovers), Gasol (three turnovers), Randolph (two turnovers), Gay (two turnovers), Marreese Speights (two turnovers) and Quincy Pondexter (two turnovers)--in other words, ever Memphis player who saw at least three minutes--struggled with Los Angeles’ defense. When Randolph or Gasol didn’t have the ball, the Grizzlies’ offense often stagnated.

In Memphis’ Randolph-Gasol-based offense, Conley filled his role well. Conley worked as a spot-up shooter, making 3-of-5 three-pointers, and used his passing ability (nine assists) to keep the other Grizzlies involved.

The formula was far from perfect, but it allowed Memphis to build a nine-point lead in the first quarter and come back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter. It even allowed Memphis to overcome missing five-of-six free throws in the final 25 seconds.

Randy Foye scored the game’s final points on a three-pointer with 3.7 seconds left, and it appeared the Grizzlies’ missed free throws might matter. But Conley made a smart play by taking the inbound, running upcourt and, as the Clippers closed to foul, flipping the ball behind his head to let time expire. Such a simple play was actually one of the smoothest-looking in the game.

The Clippers’ offense was more balanced than usual with Paul (11 points and seven assists) and Griffin (17 points and six assists) relegated to more facilitating than usual. Six Clippers scored at least nine points.

Eric Bledsoe (14 points and six assists in 24 minutes), Reggie Evans (10 rebounds, three blocks and a steal in 24 minutes) and Kenyon Martin (5-of-6 shooting and two blocks in 21 minutes) deserve special recognition for keeping Los Angeles in the game. Bledsoe, in particular, helped the Clippers’ offense flow by driving to the basket, drawing defenders and then making a play.

But it’s tough to win in the playoffs when Bledsoe, Evans and Martin are so key and Paul and Griffin can’t even get back on defense every time. The Grizzlies relied on their stars tonight, and Los Angeles couldn’t. If Paul and Griffin aren’t in better shape by Sunday, it’s difficult to see the Clippers taking Game 7--especially if the Grizzlies feed their stars again.

Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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