There's one thing about playing the Clippers in the playoffs that I'm not sure the league has thought about: the late 8:30 tipoff time allows the entire crowd to get good and lubricated on Beale Street before game time. 18,000 slightly inebriated Griz fans? Even louder than 18,000 regular Griz fans.
The Grindhouse is going to be rocking tonight. I'm thinking about packing some earplugs.
We've seen the way this series has played out. The Grizzlies lost the first two games in L.A., first by 21 and then by 2. They won games 3 and 4 by 12 and 21 points respectively. They went to L.A. and stole one at STAPLES Center, 103-93.
Zach Randolph has returned on a time machine from 2011. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are much better than they were in 2011, and both of them have proven themselves to be elite playmakers in the postseason. Tony Allen continues to be the league's best perimeter defender, giving all kinds of fits to Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford and whoever else steps into his path of basketball destruction.
The Grizzlies are firing on all cylinders right now, having won 3 in a row against the Clippers. A team like the Clippers is not going to be easy to beat four times in a row, though.
Some thoughts on how the Grizzlies can seal the deal tonight at the FedExForum:
- Chris Paul is going to be in Point God mode tonight. I mean, even more so than he has been throughout this whole series. He's the best point guard in the league (yes, I'm right) and he has the ability to mostly take over a game and win it by himself... ...if the Clippers are close enough for him to do it. The keys to shutting Paul down are Tony Allen and Mike Conley and Quincy Pondexter and whoever else coach Lionel Hollins decides to throw at him. If they can keep him uncomfortable, and make him work harder than normal on every possession, the Grizzlies have a chance to end this thing tonight.
The Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph high-low game has to continue. The Clippers don't seem to be able to do anything to stop it, short of cloning Blake Griffin and putting three of him on the court at the same time (which I don't see happening tonight). If Griffin is still hobbled by his ankle injury, expect the Grizzlies to go at him every single possession until he either leaves the game or is TKO'd in a violent struggle with Z-Bo under the basket. Unlike last year, the Clippers don't seem to have enough guys willing to go at it down on the blocks to be able to slow the Grizzlies' roll.1
Composure and poise from the bench. The Clippers are going to be desperate tonight: it's win or go home for them. They don't want to go home. They're going to be fighting and scratching and clawing like their lives depend on it because their seasons do depend on it. Throughout this series, we've seen the Grizzlies bench struggle to hold down the fort against the Clippers' reserves, getting overrun like Davy Crockett at the Alamo. Simply put, the Grizzlies cannot afford for the bench to screw this up. They've handled themselves well in games 4 and 5, especially, with the return of Darrell Arthur and Quincy Pondexter to the land of the living. That's got to continue tonight.
I'm already nervous. I'm anxious because I want this to be over and I want the Grizzlies to be in the next round. I think tonight is going to be a special night to be at the Grindhouse, win or lose, but I'd trade a night at the Grindhouse for certainty that the Grizzlies were going to survive tonight and advance.
Tonight's the night, Griz fans. This is the big one. Get ready.