While Memphis can take a lot of positives from their buzzer-beating Game 2 loss in L.A. (Conley's 28 points, great 'D' in 3rd quarter), it's getting harder and harder to distinguish this series from what I saw last year around this time.
After watching the first two games of the series between the Grizzlies and the Clippers, I can't help but feel like I've seen this all before.....
- Zach Randolph sitting and watching the final minutes of a close game from the end of the bench (coach's decision). That zoom-in on Zach by TNT cameramen last night was straight out of last year's highlight package.
- Randolph running around gingerly on a bad leg. The story of, and excuse for, last year's loss to the Clippers was a less-than healthy Zach. He was still laboring up and down the court following midseason surgery on his knee. Last night, after taking a Blake Griffin foot to the knee and buckling, Zach again had a hard time running let-alone battling 'Mr. KIA Optima'. Zach is already slower and less athletic than Blake. Leg issues just seem to accompany Randolph in this matchup every year.
- The deeper and more athletic Clipper bench is again running circles around the Grizzly reserves. Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes....even 'fake thug' Ryan Hollins is making an impact. Now that's scary.
- Speaking of a Hollins, Lionel too is doing his best imitation of 2012. His in-game adjustments are just as stale, making the clueless Vinny Del Negro look like Red Auerbach out there. If NBATV loses its arena feed in the postgame show, they can just play any one of Lionels' pressers from last year's series. It's the same grumpy, surly Hollins giving the shortest and most disdainful answers this side of Gregg Popovich. When your head coach is correcting reporters instead of answering the questions, it doesn't look good. It only makes Memphis look more rattled on national television.
- The same old antics of Z-Bo, trying to get under Blake's skin inside. It's just as fun to watch as last season, but just as ineffective too. This strategy didn't result in a series victory last year and it doesn't seem to be working this time around, either. The referees think its so comical, they've resorted to just calling a double-foul and moving on. Griffin's first quarter in Game 2 should be all Grizz fans need to know about this matchup.
- Lastly, we have Chris Paul. He's again dictating the tempo and also getting every borderline call down the stretch. I'm not sure if the referees are in awe of him or just plain scared of losing their State Farm protection by blowing the whistle against him. Randolph's 5th "foul" last night, as Paul jumped into him and then fell down, speaks volumes as to who the refs are siding with in this series.
But, then again, calls usually go to the more aggressive team.
Just like last year, that's the Los Angeles Clippers.