The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies in a hard fought seventh game during the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. The Clippers went on to the second round of the playoffs which was unchartered waters for the Clipper organization. In the second round of the 2012 NBA playoffs, the Clippers were swept by arguably the most seasoned “Big Boy” team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.
The Memphis Grizzlies, came oh so, close to realizing a second round milestone for their organization but they lost to the Clippers in the 1st round of the 2012 NBA Playoff. Despite the loss Memphis did gain some valuable experience that would motivate them going into their 2012-2013 NBA regular season.
Both the Clippers and the Grizzlies had player personnel transactions going into the next season. None was bigger than the loss of Rudy Gay the Grizzlies former # 1 option on offense. The Rudy Gay hole has been filled by second year player Quincy Poindexter and veteran defensive specialist Tony Allen. The Clippers lost, traded or released players like Randy Foye and Mo Williams, as well as, two needed physical players in Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans.
The loss of Martin and Evans seemed insignificant at the time but may loom large as the NBA’s 2013 1st round heats up. The Memphis Grizzlies came into Los Angeles and punched the Clippers in the mouth on their home court in game five of the series putting the grizzlies up 3-2 in the series. The philosophy many experts do not like may be in effect here; “The playoffs do not begin until one team wins the first game on the road.”
During the regular season the Clippers, “Lop City” and the Grizzlies posted the same records. The Clippers and the Grizzles had 56 wins and 26 losses with both teams garnishing the necessary growing pain experience that winning consistently not only at home but, also on the road can enhance a team’s “Big Boy” factor.
The Clippers’ coach Vinny Del Negro has been a lame duck coach in the eyes of many Clipper fans. The players get the praise when the Clippers win and the coach gets the blame when the team, the players lose. He seems to be unable to secure the faith of the Clipper fans despite where he has taken the Clippers since taking over as head coach. Now that the Clippers are down 3-2 in their playoff series with Memphis the cat call prognosticators are calling for his head again if the Clippers do not overcome the “Big Boy” Growing Pains, by coming back and winning this series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Coach Del Negro will also be expected to win the second round if they do defeat their seemingly equal counterpart in the 1st round. These expectations, as well as, others are fairly or unfairly hoisted on the back of the Los Angeles Clippers’ coach Vinnie Del Negro.
Coach Lionel Hollins is in a similar position because his team has also reached a Growing Pain expectation point where he is expected to lead his team into the 2nd round of the playoffs or more. The first “Big Boy” step for the Memphis Grizzlies is to beat the Clippers in the first round.
Coach Hollins does not receive the same pressure for his job performance and capabilities as Coach Del Negro, but there has been some speculation or rumor of Hollins leaving Memphis if he is unable to guide his team to a series win against the Clippers and a strong showing in the 2nd round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. The issue is not that the Grizzles’ management would want to fire Coach Hollins, but they are concerned that Hollins, who is in the last year of his contract, may bolt for more fertile lands if the Grizzlies do not progress as hoped for this year.
Going into game six in Memphis the Clippers have definitely entered into “Big Boy” territory where the Growing Pains are so thick you could cut it with a knife. Remember the loss of Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans? Now those player personnel decisions loom large in this playoff series against the physical and skillful one, two punch of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. In game five and at other junctures of the series the Clippers have had no answer for the Memphis Grizzlies’ dynamic duo, Randolph and Gasol.
Game six in Memphis is going to be tough for the Clippers. Blake Griffin is a game time decision, but the Clippers hope he can play even if he is not at a hundred percent. Without Griffin, the weight falls on Lamar Odom to step up to the challenge offensively, defensively and rebounding wise to help offset the pressure Zach Randolph will be applying against the Clippers in all these categories.
Ronnie Turiaf will also be needed to help on Randolph defensively maybe utilizing his six fouls. Ryan Hollins will need to step up to help guard Marc Gasol. Hollins is quick enough to guard Gasol when he is away from the basket where he is deadly when left open.
Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford are going to have to step up their scoring in order for the Clippers to the win the sixth game and the series. Finally, the Clippers must make a defensive decision to double team Randolph and Gasol when they get the basketball down low or in the mid-range areas they like to drive to the basket. The Clippers must shut down the paint to stop Memphis penetration then close as best as possible on the outside shooters. The Clippers must get the basketball out of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph’s hands as much as possible and force the other Grizzlies to beat them. The Clippers must also control the boards not giving up offensive rebounds and securing their defensive boards if the Clippers are going make it to a seventh game and then vie to win the series.
Both teams have definite “Big Boy” assignments to satisfy their growth pains.