The Memphis Grizzlies fought back to claim Game 2 despite Chris Paul’s efforts. In San Antonio, the Spurs dismantled the Jazz and the Pacers dominated the 2nd half to top the Magic.
Chris Paul has transformed Clippers into a gritty bunch
If you visit this blog on a semi-regular basis; you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been high on the Clippers this season. I thought they were too thin in crunch time and lacked the make-up to succeed in the postseason. While I ultimately still feel the same, it’s clear the Clippers aren’t as soft as I assumed.
After getting shellacked in Game 1 before pulling off an amazing rally for the win, I thought it was important the Clippers won Game 2 or at the very lest competed right down to the wire. Had Memphis run the Clippers out of the gym again, I feared the Clippers would assume their Game 1 comeback was a fluke and the Grizzlies were simply that much better. Thankfully (we need at least one knock-down, drag out series in the 1st round), that didn’t happen. Credit Chris Paul.
Paul gives the Clippers swagger. When they see him attack the bigger and tougher Grizzlies, the rest of the Clippers follow suit. Paul, at only 26, is the father figure for this young LA squad. Without him, the Clippers are a tentative, scared mess of a team. Paul keeps them in line. When Nick Young hoisted his 473rd amazingly stupid shot of the season, Paul gave him an ear full while running back on D. When the Clippers could have easily folded late in the 4th quarter content to go back to Los Angeles tied at one, Paul kept fighting. In Game 1, with the Clippers down 20, Paul refused to leave the floor, believing his team still had a chance. LeBron James is the best player in the NBA but Paul means more to his team.
The Clippers really have no business competing with the Grizzlies. LA’s second best player is a raw, hesitant and flawed power forward that lacks a certain pedigree at this point in his career. Furthermore, the Clippers are now playing without their 3rd and 4th most reliable players in Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler. Essentially, Paul is facing off against a varsity Memphis team with an elementary school squad. He’s their only hope in getting to the 2nd round and he knows it.
Spurs crush Jazz
I never understood the fascination with the Utah Jazz heading into the postseason. Picking the Jazz to give the Spurs trouble was apparently the “cool” thing to do. Why? Because A. The Jazz has a big frontcourt and B. The Spurs struggled in the 1st round last year against Memphis. Yes, the Jazz is a big team, and yes, the Grizzlies beat up the Spurs a year ago, but outside of size, the Jazz and Grizzlies aren’t similar at all.
As I stated when I picked the Spurs to sweep, the Jazz don’t play defense. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap can give San Antonio all the headaches they want (which they haven’t), but unless they learn to protect the rim defensively, Utah has no chance. We’ve seen that play out in Games 1 and 2. Right now, the Jazz will be lucky to return to San Antonio for Game 5 next week.
On Wednesday night, the Jazz trailed by 10 with 6:05 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Six minutes later, Utah trailed by 25. They wouldn’t get any closer than 22 points the rest of the way. In all, the Jazz trailed by 20+ points for 25 minutes and 40 seconds. Utah’s size isn’t cutting it. To compete, the Jazz needs a better defensive effort. (Perhaps more Derrick Favors?)
Pacers rout Magic
I only caught bits and pieces, but from what I saw, it looked like the Pacers best performance of the playoffs. They dominated the Magic on the boards and Danny Granger played liked a star. Obviously, winning the series is all that matters, but it benefits Indiana to advance to round two as quickly as possible. With the Heat likely to finish off the Knicks in four or five, the Pacers will need as much energy and strength as possible to challenge Miami. More importantly, the Pacers will need Granger to consistently be at the level he was at on Wednesday night. Based on Wednesday’s performance, Orlando looks ready to call it a season, so the Pacers should be done with round one sooner rather than later.