For once in their tortured history, the Los Angeles Clippers seem to be in a good place. They have always had some talented players, but save for the 2006 team that featured Sam Cassell and Elton Brand, they could never really make things work.
The Clippers acquired the best point guard in the league last December with the hope that he would turn around the franchise and lead it to wins, give it some respectability and possibly help the team advance in the postseason. So far, Chris Paul has successfully accomplished all of these goals save for getting the team to advance in the playoffs.
The Memphis Grizzlies surely still have a chance of coming back into the series and winning it, but as it stands right now, they are one loss away from going home and watching the Clippers advance to the second round to take on the San Antonio Spurs.
Entering Game 4 last night at Staples Center, the Grizzlies had a chance of regaining home court advantage by winning in Los Angeles and sending the series tied back home at two games apiece where a pivotal Game 5 would potentially swing the matchup into their favor.
Indeed, the Grizzlies have been arguably the most physical team in the playoffs so far and have been allowed to play their style throughout the first round of the playoffs, but especially in homes games where Memphis has shot 57 free throws compared to LAC’s 41.
But before all these scenarios could pan out for the Grizzlies, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin happened.
Indeed, the duo was spectacular in Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Early on, they benefited from the presence of Caron Butler who helped stretch the court with his scoring and shooting as he poured in 11 points in the opening quarter. Not to be outdone by a teammate, Paul came out aggressive early and had eight points to go along with five assists to help set the tone as the Clips produced 32 points in the first quarter.
This allowed Blake Griffin to get some space to work on the block and go right at Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the second quarter as he scored 10 points on 4-for-5 field goal shooting. The key in this game early on was that officials called the game tightly and did not allow Randolph to assault Griffin prior to catching the ball on the block much like he had done in the previous three contests.
Consequently, the Clippers’ power forward got multiple touches and was able to take advantage of them as he led the way scoring wise on the night with 30 points on 10-for-15 field goal shooting. Worth noting: 11 of Griffin’s 15 attempts were directly at the rim.
On five separate occasions, Blake Griffin was the recipient of a pass that led him directly to a basket at the rim. Given that he converted eight shots at the basket, it’s clear that he depends on his teammates to feed him for scores. But on this night, he was more than just a finisher. Griffin posted up, dropped stepped, used spin moves, up and under moves and also faced up and drove to the basket where he kept getting hacked. The Clippers big man was able to manufacture 17 free throw attempts.
His stellar play at the offensive end helped set up the dramatics late in the game.
Chris Paul was uncharacteristically a poor performer in the fourth quarter of Game 4 and even failed to get a shot off at the end of regulation with the game tied. However, the overtime period was completely different.
Griffin fouled out halfway through OT and essentially robbed the Clippers of their best finisher. And yet, Paul managed and improvised.
Instead of looking for teammates and orchestrating plays to get others going, Paul took the bull by the horns and closed out the Grizzlies all by himself. He routinely made O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen appear invisible on defense — Tony Allen is by all accounts one of the premier defensive guards in the NBA — as he flashed his magical ball handling skills to breeze by them with ease to get into the lane and score.
It got to the point that it became a mystery while watching things unfold why the Clippers even bothered to run pick-and-rolls when Paul could easily break down his defender at any point in time if he so wished to do so.
The ball handling wizard finished the extra session with eight points on 4-for-5 field goal shooting and never really looked back. Memphis had no answer for Paul and honestly, the rest of the league might not have one either.
I hate to make hyperbolic statements after a first round victory, but Paul’s performance had all the makings of Magic’s famous quote after Kareem went down in the 1981 Finals with an ankle injury: “Never fear, Magic is here”.
Chris Paul owned the Grizzlies last night despite the fact that his starting unit failed to outscore their opponent. Indeed, according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, the Clippers’ starting unit had a plus-minus rating of 0 in 21 minutes of playing time.
Blake Griffin helped set the stage, and then Paul danced all over it as Clippers fans went home happy.
His 27 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists on 10-for-22 shooting may look impressive in the box score, but it fails to capture just how dominant he has been not only in Game 4 but throughout the series in leading the Los Angeles Clippers to the brink of the second round.
Noticed how we no longer refer to them as Lob City?
That’s because Paul has turned them into a legitimate postseason threat.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
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