I am 100% ready for this series to be over with so I can go back to, you know, enjoying watching basketball instead of spending about three hours very late at night curled into a fetal position trying not to look at the screen. This series has felt, in a lot of ways, exactly like the one last year, and exactly like the regular season game between these two from earlier this month: tense and hard to define.
After getting walloped in Game 1, the Grizzlies came out in Game 2 with their heads on straight and threw the first punch, led by some very solid play from Mike Conley (28 points, 9 assists) and Tony Allen (16 points, 10 rebounds, only a couple of hideous outlet passes). Down the stretch, Darrell Arthur struggled all game until crunch time, when he scored a couple baskets and almost stole the game for the Grizzlies, until Chris Paul did Chris Paul things as time ran out and the Clippers won.
It'd be a lot better to be tied 1-1 than to be down 2-0, but Game 2 had to give some hope to Grizzlies fans who watched Game 1 and thought maybe the Grizzlies left their effort in the regular season. That said, there were some things that need to be different tonight if the Grizzlies are going to protect home court and defend the Grindhouse against the Clipper bench hordes:
- Firstly, the Grizzlies have to quit missing free throws. They missed 11 in Game 2, and lost by 2 points. You do the math on whether those missed FTA's turned out to be important. This is something that the Grizzlies have struggled with since the middle of March, or so, though. For whatever reason, they're not going in right now. This is the playoffs. There are no free points... except free throws. Make them.
- Zach Randolph, if he's going to defend Blake Griffin, has to do that better. Griffin had 13 points in the first quarter, taking it to Randolph at every opportunity. To be honest, it's the first time I can remember that Griffin has been able to just straight-up take it to Z-Bo under the basket, and I'm sure Zach's mad about it and will come out tonight and try to beat Griffin's head in. Long story short, Griffin and Randolph have been trying to out-bully each other the whole series so far, and it's not really working for either of them. Z-Bo's got to play a little smarter than Blake tonight.
- The Grizzlies bench needs to step up if they don't all want to be shipped off to other teams this offseason. The Griz bench scored 11 points in Game 2, and 9 of those bench points were Darrell Arthur. Bayless scoring 2 points is not going to cut it. Quincy Pondexter scoring 0 and getting 1 rebound in 10:36 of playing time isn't going to cut it. Ed Davis got yanked back to the bench by his Lionel Leash after about 3 minutes, racking up a single shot attempt and a single turnover. The Clippers' bench is deep, and talented, and they've been absolutely slaughtering the Grizzlies for two straight seasons. Tonight is put up or shut up time. If the bench can't score more than 11 points tonight, the Grizzlies will lose, and I will not feel bad if every last one of them are traded. (Except Ed and Tony Wroten.) (And QPon and Jerryd.) (Maybe I don't really mean that, but I feel like I do.) You want to be a rotation player on a playoff team? Gotta stop crapping your pants when you're out on the floor in a playoff game.
I'm going to be at the game tonight, trying not to puke all over my laptop. I really want the Grizzlies to win this one. The whole city does. We (Memphis) need this one. I hope it happens.