Whoa. These last two playoff games between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies have been close. But based on how these teams have been playing the whole season, both against other teams and against each other, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not to mention the history these two teams have from last year’s playoffs.
Veering slightly from this discussion (but for a reason, I promise), I love the board game Clue. I find it very exciting to collect clues, analyze them closely in relation to each other, and then come to a conclusion. So as we look forward to tonight’s matchup, I propose a little game of Clippers Clue: The Great New NBA Game.
Here’s how it works: I’ll give you some players and stats, and you’ll have to combine them to answer one of two questions. You can either decide what is going to allow the Clippers to continue to be successful in the playoffs or what is ultimately going to be their downfall (if you think there will be one).
1. Chris Paul
We all saw the incredible last-second shot from Paul that sunk the Grizzlies on Monday. In the last two games, Paul has put up 47 points and dished out 16 assists. After Monday’s game, Tony Allen expressed the Grizzlies’ frustrations about Paul, saying, “He is who he is. He’s an All-Star point guard. He’s been a pain in our behind these last two games, and we want to go out there and try to do our best to do a better job of containing him.”
2. Eric Bledsoe
There’s just something about Bledsoe. When he is on, he’s on. And the last few games, he has been able to knock the Grizzlies off their game just enough to create confusion and allow the Clippers to capitalize on it. He’s put up 23 points, 5 assists, and 10 rebounds in the last two games, making him just enough of a distraction that the Grizzlies can’t afford to ignore him.
3. Jamal Crawford
If Crawford is upset that he lost Sixth Man of the Year to J.R. Smith, he sure isn’t showing it. If anything, it seems to have sparked a fire in Crawford, who has put up an impressive 28 points in the last two games against the Grizzlies. Despite being snubbed for the recognition he clearly deserves (yes, I’m still bitter about the All-Star Game), Crawford has led the deep Clippers’ bench as a force to be reckoned with.
1. The X Factor
This is just that special something that cannot be explained. The X Factor can take many different forms. It can be that respect that Paul commands when he leads the offense, it could be that look in Blake Griffin’s eyes when he windmill dunks over someone, or it could be Ryan Hollin’s ability to always get into a tiff with someone.
2. The 3-Point Shot
When the Clippers are hot, they can have some devastating 3-point shooters: Crawford, Paul, Matt Barnes, and every now and then, even Griffin. But as the old adage says, “What the 3 giveth, the 3 taketh away” (I may have paraphrased, but you get the point). There have been games during the regular season that, when forced to shoot from the outside, the Clippers have faltered. And defensively,the Clippers have had a hard time defending the 3-point shot against many teams. So really, this could be a blessing or a curse.
3. Deep Bench
A huge factor that has contributed to the Clippers’ success this year has been their incredibly deep bench. In fact, it has been argued that many of the players that grace the bench of the Staples Center would probably be starters at other teams. Whether or not you agree, there can be no doubt that the talent on the bench has not only helped when the starters needed breaks, but also when key players have been hurt throughout the year.
The Location (Game/Round)
If you don’t believe the Clippers will win it all, at what point do you think they will meet their demise? Will they fall to the Grizzlies in this first round? Will they make it to Round 2, but fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder? In which game?
GAME TIME: I’ll start.
The factors that I think will make all the difference for the Clippers as they continue in the playoffs are as follows: Eric Bledsoe with the X Factor in Round 2, Game 4.
Teams just don’t know what to do with Bledsoe. He’s the X Factor that has thrown the Grizzlies off their groove. He can run the ball, he can shoot, and he can even outrebound 7-ft. Marc Gasol. He’ll be just enough of a thorn in the side of the Grizzlies for the Clippers to win this round and advance to Round 2. But as much as I would like to see the Clippers in the NBA Finals, I’m just not sure they’ll be able to make it past the Thunder, especially when playing in Oklahoma.
What do you think? Play along! Submit your Clippers Clue answers in the comments below, Hubsters!