The Los Angeles Clippers are up 2 games to 1 in their best of seven series with the Memphis Grizzlies. But should they be? An argument can be made that the Grizzlies have played well enough to be up 3-0 in this series if not for the heroics of Chris Paul and two X-factors unknown outside of LA, in Reggie Evans and Nick “Swaggy P” Young.
Let’s address the Superstar first. To no one’s surprise CP3 has been dominant in this series averaging 22.3 points, 9.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game while shooting: 46% from the 3-point line/89% free throw line. All of these numbers are above his seasonal averages. This surge mirrors CP3′s ability all year to dominate in the 4th quarter: Paul simply plays better when the stakes are higher. The Grizzlies clearly understood that they couldn’t completely “shut down” CP3 and have done a solid job containing his explosiveness and forcing him into 4 turnovers a game. The Grizzlies have to feel like CP3 isn’t beating them “all by himself” and that fact coupled with Blake Griffin’s decrease in scoring and rebounding (from the regular season) should mean that the Grizzlies should be up in this series. However the opposite is true.
The biggest problem for the Grizzlies has been their inability to shut down Nick Young and Reggie Evans. As I wrote about Sunday, Young has taken his game to the next level during these playoffs, shooting 13-21 from the field (62%), 7-10 from downtown (70%) and is 4-4 from the charity stripe (100%). Coming into the series the Grizzlies’ scouting report on Young was probably rooted in making him take contested shots and limiting his penetration to the rim. The Grizzlies have found themselves over helping on Paul’s penetration into the lane and it has resulted in Young being “wide open” from beyond the arc. Making Young a “catch-and-shoot” player has proven to be unwise. Young’s track record (39% from the field, 35% from beyond the arc in 2012) is based on him taking ill-advised shots and his unwillingness/inability to create opportunities for his teammates. In Games 1-3 the Grizzlies have allowed him space and he has made the Grizzlies pay. Moving forward the Grizzles have to run Young off the 3-point line and then bring a help defender over to force him into a challenged shot. Otherwise he will continue to torch them.
Reggie Evans was dynamite in Games 1 and 3 as he averaged:
- 5.5 points and 12 boards per game on 80% Shooting (4-5 from the Field)
Conversely in their Game 2 loss Evans was invisible:
- 0-0 from the field, 1 board 1 Turnover in 16 minutes.
Evans is an energy player who needs to be accounted for every time a shot goes up. In Game 2 the Grizzlies were physical with him and prevented him from getting advantageous rebounding position. If Evans continues to be a beast on the boards he can help protect Griffin from some of the physicality the Grizzlies are throwing his way. However, if the Grizzlies neutralize his ability to rebound, then Evans is essentially useless, as his offensive skill set is limited to put-backs off the offensive glass.
The Clippers need sustained efforts from Evans and Young in order to defend their home court advantage. A slip tonight and the Grizzlies will regain control of the series.
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