Any discussion of Game 2 between the Clippers and Grizzlies has to start at the end of Game 1, when a 28-3 run by Los Angeles led to an improbable comeback win.
It was devastating to Memphis. Can the Grizzlies put that behind them and bounce back?
If the Grizzlies can, will the Clippers be able to alter the course of the first 40 minutes of that game when they were owned by Memphis? Can the Clippers overcome the loss of Caron Butler with a broken hand?
You can bet you will see a desperate Memphis team that knows it cannot go down 0-2 at home. You can bet the Clippers will be motivated now and make this a closer contest throughout:
Three things to watch:
1) How do the Clippers defend Rudy Gay now? Caron Butler gave the Clippers a veteran, physical wing defender, although the Grizzlies did a good job of forcing bigs to switch onto Gay off picks, then Gay took advantage. But Butler broke his hand. Now? At the three it may be Nick Young, who brings a lot of offense but not much defense. Vinny Del Negro’s other options is the steady but unspectacular Bobby Simmons. Either way the Grizzlies can’t let Memphis switch him into mismatches that he can exploit. Although Young is already a mismatch. Basically, Gay may have a big day and the Clippers have to counter it
2) Can the Clippers get Blake Griffin going, too? Chris Paul is the guy who make s the Clippers offense go. He’s the man. But Griffin is a tough defensive matchup — he has moves and can score out of the post, and if you bring the double he’s a better passer than you think. The Clippers need to counter what Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol can do by making them work on defense and getting Griffin going is key. They need more than just him dunking in transition.
3) Can Zach Randolph get going? Last season he was the reason the Grizzlies upset the Spurs — he was a force in the low block. He has fantastic footwork that creates space for a guy with an amazingly soft touch. But he is not yet 100 percent and it has looked that way. They need him, they need him to make Blake Griffin work (or get in foul trouble), they need his buckets. He will be key.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.