The Clippers/Grizzlies rivalry has become one of the most entertaining in the sport, though, for whatever reason, success seems a tad one-sided. That trend continued Tuesday night
Two teams that couldn’t be anymore different. Whether it’s playing style, overall appeal, popularity, exposure, even where they’re from is so vastly different that they could form the yin and yang of each spectrum of the NBA.
But for the exciting, star-studded and increasingly popular Los Angeles Clippers, there continues to be one team, in a quaint city nestled in the south, far away from any “top five most popular teams” (or even top 20) lists, that has bludgeoned them senseless each time they clash.
Tuesday, while the game was close, the end result remained the same…
The Memphis Grizzlies once again got the best of LA.
The Clippers lost late after a Chris Paul turnover in the final seconds, so, so close to a crack at overtime and maybe a win against mighty Memphis.
So even in defeat, what can LA take out of this crushing loss?
Most obviously, from the Clippers’ perspective, it was great to see the team compete so well without Blake Griffin. One would have to think with Griffin in the lineup, the Clippers would have found a way to win that game. By simple mathematics, you’d think he’s more than enough to make up for the three-point final deficit.
Yes, Griffin’s performances against the uber-physical frontline the Grizzlies hasn’t exactly been terrific, but Paul’s late turnover had a lot to do with the fatigue that stems from carrying a team to the tune of 30 points and 10 assists in 39 minutes.
Had Blake been there to share at least some of the burden, Paul might not have dribbled the ball off his leg or at the very least would have had a pick and roll as an option instead of an isolation play at the top of the key in that situation.
Griffin’s main nemesis (and kryptonite if you will) Zach Randolph (right) had a subpar game, with just seven points on 2-12 shooting.
But for whatever reason, even with Z-Bo’s poor outing, there’s always something that trips up LA against the Grizz. Again, there are a serious number of factors that go into winning, especially close games like those that typically occur between these two teams.
But why does Memphis continue to give LA fits and many a sleepless night for Doc Rivers?
Is it a matter of demons? Might that playoff series loss years ago still haunt Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and their teammates? That’s an easy stance to take, but, as usual, the easy stance doesn’t do much to actually explain anything.
Yes, recent success or failure has an obvious impact, but you have to dig deeper.
How about the matchups? Is it a matter of playing style between the positions of strength that work in favor of the Grizzlies? Now, we’re getting closer. Memphis’ key players are nearly as strong, if not stronger and play the same positions as the Clippers’ big three and the rest of the roster is more than enough to overcome an advantage.
Paul is obviously a better player than Mike Conley, but is the matchup impossible to overcome?
No, and far from it.
Griffin, especially at this point in his career, is an extremely sizeable upgrade at power forward over the aforementioned Randolph. But, again; is how big an upgrade and can it be overcome at other positions? This is the largest personnel deficit Memphis would have to overcome, but they do so with depth.
Some of that deficit is actually made up at center. Yes, Jordan lately is a man possessed. He had another strong effort Monday night, but Marc Gasol (left) is the exact type of player that is best built to counter what Jordan has to offer.
He’s extremely skilled, can shoot from midrange (pulling Jordan away from the basket) and is great at positional defense, making pick and rolls all the more difficult to run.
Let’s say the Clippers have an advantage through those three. Look at the rest of the rosters. Role players Courtney Lee, Tony Allen and Jeff Green would be welcomed by a parade if they made their way to the Clippers.
Compare those guys to Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis and Austin Rivers; and whatever advantage is immediately made up for.
In the end, based on roster makeup, the Grizzlies are just better.
Yes, the Clippers managed to keep it close Monday night. If they meet the Grizzlies in the playoffs, though, they’ll hope to do so again.