Well, the gang's all here. We're fast approaching Game 1 of the gigantic showdown between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers. All of your GBB writers and contributors sat down to answer a few tough questions about the series.
1. Finish this sentence. In order for the Grizzlies to win this series...
Trisity Miller: ...get better bench production and shoot the ball better from the perimeter. No it's not the last two seasons and I'd hate to beat a dead horse, but bench play and three-point shooting has the ability to sway this series. Especially on the road.
Marcus Privitt: In order for the Grizzlies to win this series, they need to be effective from the 3pt line. We've proven we can hang with the best on the inside - but to push the x-factor, we need to be shooting well from outside.
Kevin Lipe: The Grizzlies have to figure out a way to deal with the Clippers bench, especially Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe was a nightmare for O.J. Mayo last year while Mayo was attempting to play backup point guard for the first time all season. This year Bayless is probably a better matchup, but Bledsoe is still a fearsome defender and athlete. The rest of the Griz bench has to stop guys like Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill and whoever else from killing them. They didn't do a good job of that last Saturday night.
Ryan Hoover: Limit the effectiveness of the Clippers role players. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford are expected to carry the weight of the team, as they have done for a majority of the season, but the Grizzlies must control the likes of Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and, especially, Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe's control over Memphis' point guards destroyed this team in last year's playoff series and his athleticism and strength can do so again against Keyon Dooling. Minimizing these role players contributions will keep the Bears in games and allow the starters a chance to put games away.
Andrew Ford: The Grizzlies need Zach Randolph to be the Z-Bo from the 2011 playoffs. With a weaker bench than the Clippers, the Grizzlies will need all the points production they can get from their starting five. If Zach can average 20 and 10 over the series, and Gasol and Conley play as consistently as they have all season, then I like the Grizzlies chances.
Martin Knezevic: Mike Conley will need to go at Chris Paul on the offensive end. This means in the halfcourt as well as in transition. Make life slightly uncomfortable for Chris and the Clippers are a completely different team.
Keith Edwards: In order for the Grizzlies to win this series, they'll have to execute in the fourth quarter. Dating back to last year's regular season, Memphis is 5-9 against the Clippers, including the Playoffs. In wins, the average fourth quarter score for is 22.6-21.4 in favor of the Grizzlies, in losses it's a much more lopsided 24.89-17.78 in favor of the Clippers. What's more, in the Grizzlies nine losses to the Clippers, they've lost by an average of 8.3 points per game, and that includes the 22-point loss suffered during that piss-poor stretch of play in January (my God it's been a long season). Throw that one out and the losses are by an average of 5.89 points a game. If Memphis wants to advance past the first, they'll need to show up in the fourth.
2. The matchup I'm really looking forward to is...
Keith Edwards: The matchup I'm most looking forward to is Chris Paul vs. Tony Allen. We've seen the Grindfather shut down some of the premier scorers in this league, and no doubt, during crunch time, he'll be going toe-to-toe with Chris Paul. Paul is an elite player, top 5 in the league, but as someone once put it, "He's the guy that scored a 96 on a test and cheated to get 100." Paul will not only sell contact, but completely make it up at times in this series, in addition to doing his usual scoring at will. Tony will need to guard smart (Heaven help us) and avoid foul trouble.
Martin Knezevic: Z-Bo vs Blake. It's gotta be. The old school, savvy Zach counters Griffin's athleticism almost to perfection. In some instances he even uses it against him. Just as in last year's matchup, he has to get under BG's skin. Only this time, he'll have to put up big scoring numbers, too. Without Gay around this time, Memphis needs Z-Bo to match Blake's point for point.
Andrew Ford: Tony Allen on Chris Paul. Paul will end up retiring as one of the best point guards to ever play the game, and it is a thing of beauty to watch Allen chase Paul around like a rabid dog. Also, frustrate Chris Paul and the Clippers whole dynamic changes. We know Allen can be counted on for that.
Ryan Hoover: Chris Paul v. Tony Allen. The easy answer here is Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin, but in crunch time with the game on the line, I am ready to see our outstanding defensive stopper against one of the cold-blooded killers in the league. CP3 got the best of TA in the last match-up, but Tony knows all too well how to get revenge.
Kevin Lipe: Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph. The Battle Royale continues.
Marcus Privitt: Conley-Paul. Mike Conley has proven himself and exploded into a new player since the departure of Rudy Gay. A series against Chris Paul is going to show us a lot about the truthfulness behind the "transformation." I have really, really high hopes for Conley here.
Trisity Miller: Jerryd Bayless v. Jamal Crawford. This lineup may actually be indirect with the two often not guarding each other, but when these two come to play their teams usually win the games. Plus who doesn't love watching 6th men shooting with no conscience while starters are on the bench?
3. I'd really like to see...
Trisity Miller: Lionel Hollins adjust to match ups throughout the series. If DeAndre Jordan is guarding Z-Bo leaving Odom/Griffin on Gasol, let Gasol go to work on the block. If Bledsoe is pressuring Dooling full-court, let Bayless or Pondexter bring the ball up the court. It's the simple things that win games.
Marcus Privitt: The NBA media not talk about the Clippers the entire game. We've shown that we can hang with the Clippers defensively and in the playoffs - but I still think the media favors the Clippers simply because they have their two extremely marketable names in Griffin and Paul.
Kevin Lipe: I'd really like to see the Grizzlies win at least one of the first two games in L.A. by double digits. Prove they can do it.
Ryan Hoover: Marc Gasol become the national face of the Grizzlies' franchise. As die hard fans, we see Marc's contributions throughout the season and understand his talent is not limited to the stat sheet. If Marc can find his mid range touch, he can really limit DeAndre Jordan's defensive presence by drawing him away from the basket, opening up more room for Z-Bo to work. It is time for America to see the man who will one day rival Dirk Nowitzki as the greatest foreign-born player in the NBA (lofty goals).
Andrew Ford: Darrell Arthur step up and become the role player to cancel out the Clippers bench advantage. We have never consistently seen Arthur be the player that John Hollinger, Grizzlies Vice President of Basketball Operations, projected to put up 17.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game just a measly two years ago when he was still working for ESPN. I doubt we will ever see that Darrell Arthur, but 10 to 12 points a game from him in this series would go a long way. It's also probably unrealistic to ask considering how he has been playing recently. Nevertheless, Arthur could be the difference maker if he plays up to his ability.
Martin Knezevic: Z-Bo pull the chair on Blake and make him slide into the cameramen courtside. I'm not hoping for injury, just a good laugh.
Keith Edwards: I'd really like to see a picture of Nasim Pedrad wher----wait just this series? A...oh boy...this is awkward. I'd really like to see our bigs play like grown men and assert their dominance. The Utah game was a reminder of how much fun it is to watch Zach Randolph do work inside and out. Marc Gasol is the best center in this league. The Clippers bigs, especially their starters, are really, really good, but that doesn't mean our guys can't execute at all against them. Play the matchups; be physical and aggressive at the rim, and finish. These two are the closest we have to stars, now is the time for them to shine.
4. Who will be the X-Factor in this series?
Keith Edwards: The X-Factor for this series is none other than Quincy Coe Pondexter. That's right, his actual middle name is Coe, and his play could very well determine the outcome of the series. Greg Anthony made some great points on NBATv last night about how the shots for bench and role players, the ones they would normally have in the regular season, just aren't there in the playoffs. Teams are spending 100% of their time game-planning for your team. I have no doubt that the Clippers will keep Quincy from being open in the corner for 3's, so he'll have to find ways to create offense and contribute off the bench. We know Bayless will get his shots up, and we hope a good majority will fall. Quincy giving us 7-8 points off the bench every game would be a definite difference maker.
Martin Knezevic: The Grizzlies bench. If Bayless, Pondexter, and Arthur can just match the energy of the Clipper reserves, especially in L.A., Memphis has a real shot at taking the lead in this series eaerly and playing from ahead.
Andrew Ford: A healthy Eric Bledsoe, with an emphasis on healthy. If Bledsoe is healthy, he will wreak havoc on Conley on the defensive end, and there is a good chance Conley will struggle again against the big, physical guard. Also, Bledsoe thrives in transition, and if the second units match up then who guards Bledsoe? Neither Bayless nor Dooling can handle him. If he isn't able to sustain his health after recently coming off of an injury, that completely changes the series for both Mike Conley offensively and the Grizzlies as a whole.
Ryan Hoover: Jerryd Bayless must regain his pure shooting stroke and lead the bench in production. Shortly after the Rudy Gay trade, he became our 4th quarter guy, taking better shots and turning the ball over less. He must regain his stroke. The Clipper bench is the scariest part of this team. In order to win, we must minimize the scoring differential between the two bench squads. In the four games between the two teams, the bench point differential: Clippers +70. 70!
Kevin Lipe: For the Clippers, it'll be Bledsoe. For the Grizzlies, it's going to be whichever bench player ends up actually playing somewhat better than "dog turd" level. The Griz bench absolutely blitzed the Mavericks on Monday night, but we haven't seen them do that consistently all year.
Marcus Privitt: This may be stereotypical, but I think the X-factor will have to be Z-Bo. We've put a lot of faith in this guy as far as the success of the franchise goes - it's time for Z-Bo to really blow the world away in this one.
Trisity Miller: Early on I was pushing for Austin Daye as the X-Factor for Memphis, but it's unlikely he sees the floor for more than 10 minutes a game. Instead I'm going with Mike Conley. He's underperformed against LAC this season averaging 10 points on 30 percent shooting. If he regains form, it'll make things much easier for Memphis.
5. Bottom Line: Who wins?
Trisity Miller: We're all taught that history often repeats itself. Sure last years performance versus the Clippers had it's fluke performances (Game 1) matched with bad coaching (GAME 7!!), but I don't know if I can trust this Grizzlies team versus the Clippers. Clippers in 6.
Marcus Privitt: I'm rooting for the Grizzlies just as hard as everybody else on GBB - but the Clippers are beginning to emerge as a premiere franchise in the league. I'm reluctantly going with the Clips in 7.
Kevin Lipe: Grizzlies in six. Maybe seven-though I don't think the Grizz will win a Game 7 on L.A.'s home court. If they can steal one of the first two in L.A. I think the Grizzlies will have set the tone. The Clippers are more talented - especially their bench - but the Grizzlies will have to grind them down GNG-style. Still, Grizzlies in six.
Ryan Hoover: Unless either team lays a complete egg, there's no way the series goes less than 6. I really like the Grizzlies chances on the road at the Staples Center. The past few years, this core has won several games (whether it be Clippers or Lakers) in that building. I said it last year and I'll say it this year, the Grizzlies starting five are better than the Clippers starting five. Unfortunately, the bench of the Grizzlies is significantly worse than that of Los Angeles. Clippers in 7. Ugh.
Andrew Ford: Clippers in 7. This won't be popular on a Grizzlies blog, and I promise I'm a huge Grizzlies fan but I just don't see it. I think the Clippers have matchup advantages all over the court, and in the end I think the Clippers bench will make the difference just like last season. I really hope I'm wrong.
Martin Knezevic: The Grizzlies in 7. It's only poetic that they beat LAC on the road in the final game, just as they did at Memphis last year. The Grizz interior game travels well, better than the pick n roll marathon of CP3 n' crew. Also, Hollins will out-coach Del Negro in this series, another key to winning a Game 7 on the road. It's probably a good thing for the Clippers. They will finally have a reason to upgrade coaches this summer. I think that's the main thing holding them back.
Keith Edwards: I'll be honest, when I found out we were playing the Clippers, I picked them in 6 games, and was half way in between talking myself into saying they'd win it in 5. Yes, 5 games. I honestly believed I would be one of few, maybe the only, to select the Clippers to win (especially if I picked them in 5 games). But after seeing all of these other guys (save for Lipe and Knezslowski) say that Los Angeles was going to send us home early again, I got angry. Not at them, you can't get mad at someone for using their head and selecting the team that has the best chance of winning the series. I don't even know if I was necessarily mad at anyone or anything in particular; just mad. I'm mad we have to sit through another series with these guys. I'm mad that we're going to get 30+ minutes of Eric Bledsoe running a train on Keyon Dooling. I'm mad that every single game we play against these guys is a carbon copy and looks exactly the same. I'm mad because our poor play against these guys has allowed them to mentally own me. And I'm still incredibly mad that we pissed away Game 1 last season. So out of that anger, and out of a good bit of sheer stupidity and cockeyed optimism, I'm changing that pick. The Memphis Grizzlies are going to take this series from the Clippers in six games.
Contributor's picks: Clippers win 4-3
What say you Grizz fans? Give us your answers to these questions, discuss ours, and get the chatter going.