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NBA

2013 NBA Playoffs: Memphis Grizzlies Need Big Series from Mike Conley

Mike Conley Chris Paul

Gary A. Vasquez – USA Today Sports Images

In a repeat matchup from last year, the Memphis Grizzlies will once again meet the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Both rosters have undergone major changes since last year with Rudy Gay no longer being with Memphis and the Clippers adding key bench players like Jamal Crawford.

Despite these additions and changes to each teams’ rosters, it’s a matchup that we saw in last year’s postseason that will largely define how this series plays out. Mike Conley and Chris Paul will again square off at the point guard position. Conley has emerged as a leader for Memphis, especially since the departure of Gay. He will need to prove his leadership with how he attacks Paul offensively and how he plays Paul defensively in this season.

Conley’s offensive game could potentially cause a lot of problems for Paul and the Clippers. He has improved a great deal on his ability to penetrate into the lane and has worked hard on finishing at the rim and on knocking down mid-range floaters. Paul and the Clippers have struggled defending that type of offense at times this season, meaning that Conley needs to try and exploit that weakness.

Conley will also need to hold onto the ball for Memphis to be successful. The Grizzlies like to slow the game down and work methodically, so they don’t want to let the Clippers get into “Lob City” mode and get out in transition. During one regular season meeting, Conley turned the ball over six times against L.A. That can’t happen in this series if the Grizzlies want to be victorious.

Last year in the seven-game series between these two teams, Conley held Paul in check for the most part on defense. He forced Paul into committing 3.6 turnovers per game and to shoot just 45.8 percent from the field. However, Conley hasn’t done as well this season when guarding Paul. In the three regular season meetings between these two teams that Paul played in, Paul has turned the ball over three times per game, but has also averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 assists per game on 47.2 percent shooting. Conley will have to improve upon his regular season defense on Paul in the series.

Conley certainly has the ability to slow down Paul, as he displayed in the postseason last year. He will need to do the same and will also need to attack the ailing defense of the Clippers with his dribble-penetration. If he is able to do both of those things at least semi-effectively, the Grizzlies will definitely be in contention to take the series.

Cody Williams is a Senior NBA Writer with Rant Sports. Follow Cody on Twitter @TheSizzle20 and like his Facebook page.