The Clippers are undoubtedly one of the most entertaining and interesting teams in the NBA. But the question remains, are they truly among the best teams in the NBA? They are 9-5 and in first place in the Pacific, but are just 5-3 in their last eight games, with losses to Minnesota, Utah and Portland, however they also own wins over the Lakers and Miami Heat in the same stretch. Tonight they face off against the surging Memphis Grizzlies in the national TNT game.
Memphis was a surprise participant in the Western Conference Semifinals last season, but much was expected of the Grizz in 2012; a year older and a year savvier, they became the trendy pick to contend for the Western Conference crown. After a 3-6 start, there was a little cause for panic, but their 7-2 recent stretch has pulled them up to 10-7 overall and back in solid position in the Western conference race. A win over similarly inexperienced yet potential-laden LA would be a huge boost for the Grizz.
These two have played each other pretty evenly over the last two seasons, but let’s be honest here, any ‘prior performance’ comparisons with the Clippers are irrelevant seeing as Chris Paul just arrived and Blake Griffin is only in his second season. A more important factor will be the Clippers ability to bounce back less than 24 hours after an emotionally charged matchup against their Staple Center roommate Lakers. The game means the WORLD to the Clippers who have been in Big Brother’s shadow for the past 35 years and finally see a crevice of daylight to emerge. Rebounding from that type of emotion is exceptionally difficult and rarely happens in the NBA.
The Grizzlies match up well with LA. They have athletic bigs to contend with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and while Mike Conley is nowhere near the point guard Chris Paul is, on the defensive end he is excellent and full capable of making Paul work hard all evening.
The home/away points scored vs. allowed ratios for both these teams would lead me more towards a Clippers by five or even six point line. However, those ratios ignore the human side of the game. I am a huge proponent of the numbers, and have used them to guide us to a 7-1 record against the spread in the last two weeks… however; to ignore the difficulty of this type of back-to-back effort would be a little shortsighted. Give me the Grizz and the points, and don’t be surprised if they beat the Clippers straight up.