You can interpret Memphis’ impressive win against the Clippers 103-93 win in a variety of ways; the story-lines flying around should make for some excellent water cooler talk Wednesday morning. At its core, Tuesday night’s game five was about defense. Tough, nasty defense, the kind that only a team like Memphis – with three elite-level defenders (Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince and Marc Gasol) – can really bring.
Their gameplan from the get-go was simple: give Chris Paul all of the shots he wants. By entrusting point guard Mike Conley (20 points, six assists) to handle Paul by himself, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins allowed his rangy perimeter defenders and athletic bigs to disrupt passing lanes, preventing CP3 from being the playmaker that he thrives as. Memphis can live with 35 points from Paul if he only drops four dimes.
Jamal Crawford was the only other Clipper to drop double-digit points (15), but even he struggled until a fruitless rally in the final quarter netted him seven. And Blake Griffin? Bothered by a high ankle sprain, Griffin was limited to four points before bowing out in the third.
Memphis, on the other hand, featured a bevy of scorers capable of carrying the load and creating their own shot. Zach Randolph led the way with 25 varied points (10 in the fourth) and Gasol dropped 21 and looked unstoppable for a stretch in the third. Tayshaun Prince chipped in 15, including arguably the biggest shot of the night, a three-pointer with minutes to go that will haunt Clippers fans for a while now. Whereas Los Angeles only had one guy capable of taking over a game, Memphis had four players who shared the load. Some cliche about basketball being a team sport later, and it’s pretty obvious why this was such a one-sided affair.
The Grizzlies now take this show back home, where they can finish the Clippers in front of a ravenous Memphis fanbase. Considering the way that the momentum has shifted, don’t be surprised if the Grizz faithful get exactly what they want.