Wednesday, May 2, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Grizzlies
By Arash Markazi
Western Conference first round: Game 2 (Clippers lead series 1-0)
Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum, 6:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. The Comeback: It will be a long time before anyone forgets about the Clippers' historic comeback against the Grizzlies; coming back from 27 points down to upset Memphis. Yet as memorable as the game was, both teams will have to forget it ever happened by the time Wednesday’s game tips off. If the Grizzlies continues to feel sorry for themselves or the Clippers are too full of themselves, Memphis could find itself in a 0-2 hole going to L.A. or the Clippers could lose all the momentum they had after Sunday’s win. What both teams will be focused on is not replicating the way they played at different stages of the game. With the Clippers it’s the first 40 minutes of the game when they fell behind by 27 and for the Grizzlies it’s the final 8 minutes when they were outscored 28-3.
2. Evans steps up:Perhaps the most unsung hero of the Clippers’ comeback in Game 1 wasforward Reggie Evans, who equaled his season-high with 13 rebounds. Evans grabbed 13 boards in just 20 minutes, pulling down nine of them in the second half and eight in the fourth quarter alone. Evans becomes the first player since Jeff Foster on May 9, 2005 to have 13 or more rebounds in a playoff game despite playing under 21 minutes. It was the fifth time in Evans’ NBA career that he has reached double-figures in rebounds in a playoff game and the first time since April 20, 2008 when he had 14 for Philadelphia against Detroit. Evans has been the Clippers’ energizer off the bench this season and a fan-favorite at home games. If he can get involved like he did on Sunday, good things usually happen for the Clippers.
3. Butler is out: Clippers forward Caron Butler suffered a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter of Game 1 and will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. Butler underwent an X-ray at the arena during the game which confirmed the injury. Butler, who scored 12 points in 23 minutes on Sunday, now joins Chauncey Billups in street clothes on the sideline during the playoffs. The injury was especially painful for Butler, who said he got emotional prior to Game 1, after missing the end of last season, including the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run following season-ending knee surgery. “I worked so hard to get back to this point,” Butler said. “It was all about getting back to the playoffs and making a difference.”
4. Nick at night: Butler’s likely replacement in the starting lineup will be Nick Young, who made his fifth career playoff appearance on Sunday in Memphis. He was perhaps the biggest difference in the Clippers’ comeback, hitting three straight three-pointers in 60 seconds to help the Clippers cut Memphis’ lead. Young led all scorers with 19 points, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. His three straight three-pointers cut the Memphis lead from a 96-87 lead with 2:47 remaining to 96-93 with 1:47 left in the game. He finished with a plus/minus of +28 compared to Butler’s -27. Young will likely be aided by Mo Williams and Bobby Simmons off the bench in filling the void left by Butler.
5. CP3 to the rescue: With the Clippers down 27 with about two minutes left in the third quarter and 24 points down with 7:55 left in the game, it was Chris Paul who pleaded with Vinny Del Negro to leave the starters in the game. Paul rewarded his coach by leading the Clippers to the improbable win and registering a double-double, scoring 14 points and dishing for 11 assists. It was just the second points/assists double-double in Clippers playoff History, as Paul joined Sam Cassell (13 points/11 assists in April 24, 2006) as the only Clippers player to accomplish the feat. As good as the comeback was, however, Paul knows it won’t happen again if the Clippers themselves behind by 27 points again in Game 2. “I was telling some of the guys the next time we get down that much one of two things is going to happen,” he said. “Either they're going to take it to 35 or 40, or we're only going to come back to around eight and just be able to say it was a good fight.”