Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 9:00 PM
We’re only a week into the playoffs…but we’ve already reached what is arguably the most important game in what was projected to be the most competitive series. The Memphis Grizzlies must hold serve Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers if they have any hopes of making it to the second round and facing the suddenly vulnerable Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers lead two games to one…
*If Memphis holds serve for a second straight game, then we’re probably looking at the seven-game slugfest that many pundits had projected. It all starts over as a best-of-three.
*If Memphis loses, then the Clippers will have a COMMANDING lead…needing only one more win with two home games left on the docket if it goes that far.
Such a fine line between a dead heat between approximate equals or a dominating position for the series favorite. That’s why Game Fours are always seen as so important by longtime championship coaches. Get the job done here…and you’re best-positioned to attain the desired result.
What have we learned from the first two games that might help handicappers pick a winner Saturday?
*It’s all about inside defense for Memphis. This is a team with a lot of great defenders. Marc Gasol just one Defensive Player of the Year. Some pundits believe he’s not even the second or third best defender on his own team! They held the Clippers to just 39% shooting inside the arc in Thursday’s Game Three victory. They allowed a woeful 62% and 56% inside the arc the first two games. That brick wall near the bucket needs to be there again.
*Rebounding is also a huge factor. In fact, scoreboard dominance has reflected the rebounding category in this series.
Game One: Clippers won rebounding 47-23 in a rout
Game Two: Clippers won rebounding 40-38 in a nailbiter
Game Three: Grizzlies won rebounding 45-33 in a comfortable victory
Some believe that dynamic scorers in the NBA have led the sport away from “defense and rebounding wins championships.” That’s not our belief. Probably all would agree that MEMPHIS must own those stats or they’re not lasting very long in the brackets.
*Chris Paul still looks to be the tie-breaker in this matchup. Both teams have a lot of talent and intensity. Memphis doesn’t have anything that trumps Paul though. They have to hope he plays a bit below par, while they play a bit over their heads. Paul just had an awful game by his usual standards. He was 4 of 11 shooting, with no three-pointers or free throw attempts. He only had four assists! Memphis is very likely to see Paul at his best in Game Four rather than Paul at his worst.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources, his statheads, and his computer programmers to get the right read on this game. It really could blow up in in all sorts of directions. If you focus simply on Paul at his best vs. the Memphis defense and their best, it becomes easier to pin down a possible side or total advantage.
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