Preview: Grizzlies vs. Clippers, 4/9/12

Keeping Blake Griffin from hurting anybody could be a key tonight's Grizzlies-Clippers game.

Tonight, fresh off beating the two teams from last years’ Finals on back-to-back nights without ever trailing (and without Tony Allen, who got jacked in the mouth in the Wednesday night game at Dallas), the surging Grizzlies take on the Los Angeles Clippers at the FedExForum for what may be the most important game in a stretch that’s seen them beat the Thunder, Heat, and Mavericks.

Tonight’s game is crucial for playoff seeding. The Clippers are 4th in the Western Conference and the Grizzlies are 5th, separated by only 1.5 games. Half a game ahead of the Clippers, in 3rd place, are the Lakers. A win tonight could be the difference between hosting the Clippers in the first round or playing the Lakers with home court at Staples Center. I think I speak for all Grizzlies fans when I say I’d rather host the Clippers. Imagine the potential if the Grizzlies played the Lakers: it could be the first playoff series in history where the road team attempted zero free throws!

Tonight, Mike Conley – and Tony Allen, if his face has healed up enough for him to play – will have his hands full with Chris Paul, who will make it difficult for the Grizzlies to generate the points off turnovers on which their offense usually thrives. Marc Gasol and Marreese Speights and Dante Cunningham and Zach Randolph (the Grizzlies frontcourt committee) face the arguably more daunting task of keeping Blake Griffin from doing this to them:

What’s clear is that (1) Blake Griffin is going to try to do this to whoever gets in his way and (2) he’s not afraid to use that arm to throw people to the ground after he dunks on them. I worry that Randolph might be in the wrong place and the wrong time and get sent to the floor by a Griffin dunk/offensive foul and get hurt again. At any rate, I don’t expect this Grizz team to let him do it twice, and if Griffin tries his patented staredown after a dunk, I don’t expect the Grindhouse crowd to be too impressed.

The Grizzlies are on a roll this past week, building momentum and winning games by sharing the ball, creating turnovers, and finally shooting well from the perimeter (which Coach Hollins says is because guys are trying to compete with Gilbert Arenas). If they keep doing all of those things tonight, and if the defensive intensity is there to keep Paul and Griffin under control, the Grizzlies should be able to get a win, and what a win it will be.

The goal is home court. If this Grizzlies squad is going to reach that goal, they need to beat the Clippers tonight.

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