Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers -1 (Total: 182.5)
When the Memphis Grizzlies take the floor tonight, they will be playing for more than just themselves and their city. They will be playing for NBA fans everywhere.
The Grizzlies, with a win, can deliver the only competitive and dramatic series in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Every series is either 3-1, 3-0 or done heading into a week that is generally filled with a few tantalizing Game 5, 6, and hopefully one or two 7’s. Unless Memphis gets it done (or maybe the Bulls miraculously find some life??) this first round is going to whimper out drama-free.
Memphis will need to play much better in Game Four if they want to even up there series. They final score was a tight one-point game, but it would be unlikely to expect the Clippers (who are a bad free throw shooting team) to be that incredibly miserably from the line. They missed 17 of their final 30 free throw attempts in a game that looked like they were trying to reverse engineer Game One’s insane comeback. If they shoot just a reasonable 65-70% they win that game with a three or four possession cushion.
These two team are so evenly matched, it isn’t surprising that we are getting a tight and competitive series. Both teams played about 70-75% at home, and were a game or two under .500 on the road. They each have an average point differential of right around +2.0 per game, and both have young stars, good offensive balance and athletic benches. It’s difficult to look at any one particular thing and find an overwhelming advantage.
Except for Chris Paul. I think that will continue to be the difference in this series. Mike Conley has played well and is a tremendously underrated defensive point guard, but there is no one on the planet playing the position better than Chris Paul (but yes, I’ll listen to your Rajon Rondo argument). His 24 points and 11 assists willed the Clippers to a huge Game Three win, and I think he replicates that performance tonight in Game Four. It might be better for the NBA and fans in general for Memphis to win, but what we “want to happen” doesn’t always work out that way.
Unless Memphis can find a way to slow down Paul, and they haven’t through three games, I think Los Angeles wins this series and marches towards a dynamite second-round matchup with the Spurs (Tony Parker versus Chris Paul – WOW!)
Free Pick: Los Angeles Clippers -1