Los Angeles Clippers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three

Grizzlies pull away in Game 4 to even series with Clippers at two games apiece


The Grizzlies imposed their will on the the Clippers for the second straight game of the series, and as a result, we’re all tied at two games apiece. Memphis got monster performances from both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol that allowed the team to pull away for a convincing 104-83 Game 4 win over the Clippers.

Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

We’d love to break down for you exactly how the first two quarters unfolded, but since we weren’t physically in the building for this one, that would be impossible. Thanks to the Bulls needing three overtimes to take care of the Nets, along with the fact that there was no contingency plan in place from TNT (which had the broadcast rights for each of these games), nobody but those inside the FedEx Forum in Memphis actually witnessed the first half.

It appeared as though Chris Paul came out with a mindset to be more aggressive from the start, after finishing with just eight points and four assists against five turnovers in L.A.’s Game 3 loss. Paul had 14 points and five assists at the intermission, with zero turnovers.

The Grizzlies had some positives in the first half as well, once again getting Zach Randolph going early to the tune of 16 first half points to go along with seven rebounds. Memphis got out to a lead of as many as 12 in the first quarter, but the Clippers had managed to come back to take a one-point lead at the break.

The game remained close throughout the third quarter, but Marc Gasol really got rolling for Memphis, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the period.

Memphis blew it open in the fourth, thanks to a 19-5 run to start the period that lasted the first six and a half minutes. L.A. couldn’t do anything offensively in the final frame, and while they created open looks from three-point distance, they knocked down just 1-8 from beyond the arc in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Paul once again struggled to produce late in the game, and managed just one point, one assists, and one turnover in just over seven minutes of fourth quarter action.

The Clippers missed some open looks, but the lack of attention to detail on the defensive end is really what killed them down the stretch. Randolph and Gasol carried the offensive load over the first three quarters, but it was Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, and Tony Allen who did the damage in the fourth, as L.A. allowed Memphis to shoot 10-of-16 in the final period for 62.5 percent.

The Grizzlies controlled the rebounding battle for the second straight game, grabbing eight more than the Clippers on the offensive end and 17 more in total. Memphis seemed to simply want it more on their home floor, and honestly showed more fight down the stretch than did Los Angeles.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Clippers can get back to what made them successful in the first two games of this series once things shift back home for Game 5. It wouldn’t seem to be as simple as home court advantage, but the way that L.A. fell apart in the fourth quarter while Memphis seemed to see its entire team surge, the Clippers returning to their home floor might allow them to do the same.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.