2012 NBA Playoffs Recap, Day 14

The Grizzlies went to their bread and butter to force a Game 7. The Clippers 4th quarter collapse certainly helped, too. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Grizzlies force Game 7
It’s hard to win a basketball game when you’re outrebounded by 16. Just ask the Los Angeles Clippers. They know. It’s also hard to lose a game when your opponent commits 20 turnovers to your 7. Again, just ask the Clippers. They know. It was simply one of those nights for the Clippers.

It’s hard to ignore the significance of this loss for the Clippers. This was essentially their Game 7. Going down to Memphis with a bruised Chris Paul and a battered Blake Griffin to take on a team that apparently has found its identity again isn’t an easy task. In fact, I’d be absolutely shocked if the Clippers found a way to win this series. Friday night was supposed to be their night, and it was, right up until the Clippers failed to corral a rebound with an 8 point lead and 7:56 remaining on the clock. Instead of gaining possession, Zack Randolph sunk a baby hook that cut the Los Angeles lead to 6. The Clippers would go on to make only one more field goal until Randy Foye’s three pointer with three seconds left finally went in. That’s right, the Clippers converted one field goal from the 8:30 mark of the 4th quarter until :03 remained. It was ugly. Even Chris Paul couldn’t snap the Clippers out of their funk. In fact, Paul aided it, committing two costly turnovers, missing a free throw, and missing his only attempt after being re-inserted to the game around the seven minute mark of the 4th quarter.

It wasn’t completely about the Clippers collapse, though. The Grizzlies, and especially, Randolph, exerted their will down the stretch. They were quicker to the rebounds, stronger in the paint, and executed cleanly while the Clippers were an absolute mess. Even Randolph’s three misses from the charity stripe in the final seconds couldn’t save the Clippers. The Clippers had a hard enough time figuring out how and when to foul.

If we learned anything from Game 6, it’s that 1. Zack Randolph, despite a knee injury, is still capable of taking over and dominating a playoff game. 2. The Grizzlies appear to have found their swagger again. They were physical and punishing inside the paint and their perimeter defense was the best it’s been all series. 3. Randolph and Marc Gasol are a nearly unstoppable duo. They combined for 41 points, 25 rebounds, and 4 blocks. 4. Vinny Del Negro really has no idea what he’s doing sometimes. He inexplicably allowed Griffin and Paul to rot on the bench as the Grizzlies effortlessly erased an eight point lead. What’s worse, his team failed to foul quickly enough in the closing seconds and got caught matching up twice. That’s just inexplicable this time of year. However, as bad as Del Negro was, Randy Foye still had the most boneheaded moment of all when he accidentally landed out of bounds with a huge defensive rebound that would have given the Clippers possession with 24 seconds left and trailing by four. Oops.

On the positive side, this isn’t the end for the Clippers. Though, it absolutely felt like it. Griffin and Paul get another 36 hours to rest and the Grizzlies return home with some added pressure to avoid an unexpected upset. The Grizzlies took advantage of a subpar Chris Paul effort on Friday night. They’d be foolish to expect another on Sunday afternoon.

(Also, I’ll take the Boston Celtics in 6. The 76ers need to run to have success. They’ll accomplish that in a couple of games, but not four.)

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