Apr 29, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) dribbles the ball up the court as Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (50) chases behind him during the second half of game one in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at FedEx Forum. The Clippers won 99-98. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Despite the fact that the title contains a reference to the Game 1 disaster (hereafter referred to as "The Titanic"), that ship has already sunk and doesn't need to be dissected anymore. It took me two days, but I've moved on, and all of us, especially the Memphis Grizzlies, need to as well if we hope to get anything out of this series.
Throughout the season, we occasionally referred to games as "must win," well tonight's game is a "cannot lose under any circumstances." Homecourt advantage has shifted to the Clippers, meaning that Memphis has win every single home game. Further, historically teams that go down 0-2 in a series don't win. They just don't. The good news is that we have every reason to believe that Memphis will play well tonight. If there's one thing that the Grizzlies have proved to us time and time again in the Lionel Hollins-Zach Randolph era, it's that they respond incredibly well to adversity. Actually, there's a whole lot of reasons to feel positive tonight, and they all begin with Chris Paul.
If you read any Grizzlies-Clippers series previews, they all inevitably contained one trope: Chris Paul is going raise his play to impossibly high levels, because that's what he does in the playoffs. The thing is, that's not really true. Prior to Sunday, Chris Paul's teams have made three appearances in the postseason. His first playoff appearance was in 2008, when he led a plucky young Hornets team over the Mavericks in the first round and then took the reigning-champion Spurs to 7 games. Likewise, everyone also remembers last year when he nearly toppled the reigning-champions with a collection of nobodies. In those appearances he had a PER of 30.7 and 28.9 respectivlely. Yet, people seem to forget that his Hornets also played the Denver Nuggets in 2009....and CP3 was horrible. In fact, in the pivotal Game 4 with his team down 2 games, Chris Paul scored 7 points, had 6 assists, and 6 turnovers. His PER for the series was 16.1.
I don't bring these numbers up because I wish to troll Chris (far from it, he's one of my favorite players in the entire league). Rather, I do it because Chris Paul's PER on Sunday was 16.2, and for most of the game he looked more like the 2009 verison. Unfortunately for LA, he is their talisman; where he goes, the Clippers go. If there was a better manifestation of a four-leaf clover than Sunday night, than I don't know what it is. The statisical likelihood of LA winning another game with CP3 playing at that level is a near impossibilty.
The real question then becomes if Memphis can continue to defend Chris Paul well. I'm inclined to think that they can because LA just doesn't have a lot of options on offense, especially now that Caron Butler is gone. Further, the Clippers as a whole were exposed, Blake Griffin perhaps most of all. He looked absolutely miserable for most of the game. I can't recall who exactly (Sebastian Pruiti, I believe), but someone on Twitter mentioned that he looked relieved every time he was subbed out. It's been repeated ad naseum, but Griffin is a horrible post defender, and when he has two big, physical post players attacking him, he gets immediately taken out of the game.
To sum up, tonight I want to see the same strong defense on Paul. He's a phenomenal player and it's entirely possible that he'll find a way to break through anyway, but the more he has to work in the first three quarters, the less likely he's able to go off in clutchtime. I also want to see Marc Gasol and Zach attack the post. Do those things, and we should be in good position for a win.
My prediction for tonight is obviously a win. That being said, I'll say one more thing: if we lose again tonight, I think we get swept.