The Memphis Grizzlies have to be shaking their heads in disbelief right now. While the Grizzlies’ blown opportunity in Game 3 wasn’t nearly as disastrous as their historic Game 1 collapse, the fact of the matter is that Memphis could easily be up 3-o on the Clippers right now, but instead they find themselves down 2-1 thanks to two games that were decided by a grand total of two points.
Chris Paul was once again fantastic — he finished the game with 24 points, 11 assists, and 4 steals, and scored or assisted on six of the Grizzlies’ final seven points of the game. Foul trouble limited DeAndre Jordan to just 18 minutes of play, but the Clippers still held their own in the paint, outscoring Memphis 34-20 inside the painted area. The Clippers also prevented Memphis from winning the transition game — both teams had exactly 17 turnovers, and the Grizzlies only managed to grab one more offensive rebound than the Clippers did. Randy Foye did a great job in giving Los Angeles the 2nd option they so desperately needed, scoring 16 points on 6-9 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
On the Grizzlies’ side of things, Rudy Gay led Memphis with 24 points, although he missed a potential game-winning jumper with just seconds left. The Grizzlies have played great basketball in this series, but the breaks didn’t go their way in games 1 or 3, and now they need a road win to keep from falling into a huge 3-1 series hole. They can pull it off, but they need to keep their eyes on the prize and play for the full 48 minutes if they want to tie this series back up.
It’s as simple as this: if the Clippers hadn’t pulled off a miracle comeback in Game 1, they would be on the wrong side of a 2-0 deficit coming into Game 3. The Clippers have been dominated for 87 of the 96 minutes played in this series so far, and they desperately need to make some changes if they want to win Game 3 on their home floor and take a 2-1 series lead.
The Grizzlies came into the playoffs as the best defensive team in the Western Conference, and they’ve been able to almost completely neutralize what the Clippers do on offense, which is pretty much all pick-and-rolls. The Grizzlies have also used their superior size up front to muscle the Clippers in the paint, and absolutely dominated the glass in Game 2, when they also won the turnover battle handily.
The Clippers need to get their offense going in Game 3, and that means people not named Chris Paul are going to have to step up. The Clippers will need to space the floor with shooting and give the Grizzlies’ defense multiple things to worry about. Past that, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Kenyon Martin, and Reggie Evans need to do a better job of making Marc Gasol, Mareese Speights, Zach Randolph and Co. uncomfortable in the paint and on the glass, and the Clippers need to do a better job of defending Rudy Gay.
There you have it — the Clippers were pretty soundly outplayed in the first two games of the series, but did manage to pull of that aforementioned miracle, and consequently the team is just two home wins away from a commanding 3-1 series lead. We’ll see if they can pull it off.
Here’s the thing about losing close games, like the kind of games the Mavericks got in Game 1 and Game 2 of this series: you don’t get them back. The points don’t carry over.
The 7th-seeded Mavericks came far closer to beating Oklahoma City on their home floor — twice — than anybody expected they would, but they still came into Thursday night’s game down 2-0, and needed a strong performance to stay in the series.
Instead, the defending champs completely rolled over in front of their hometown fans, getting blown out and losing 95-79. It wasn’t that close.
Shawn Marion, who did a good job against Kevin Durant in Games 1 and 2, looked completely exhausted in Game 3, and Durant torched the Mavericks for 31 points on 11-15 shooting while Marion was only able to muster six points on 1-8 shooting from the field.
The news wasn’t much better for the rest of the Mavericks. Derek Fisher, who finished with 10 points, outscored all but 3 Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki shot 6-15 from the field, and even missed three of his eight free throw attempts.
Essentially, this was the game where the Thunder lived up to their billing as the odds-on favorites to win the Western Conference, and the Mavericks looked like an aging title contender who gave up Tyson Chandler for a shot at getting Deron Williams or Dwight Howard next year.
Mavericks fans should probably cherish their memories of the 2011 Playoffs right about now, because Dallas’ chances of repeating are about as slim as it gets right now.