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Saturday, May 5, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Grizzlies

By Arash Markazi

Western Conference first round: Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)
Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center, 1:30 p.m. PT


Five storylines to track:

1. Let’s get physical: It was the top topic of conversation post-game in the Clippers’ locker room following Game 2, on their flight home from Memphis and at practice on Friday. The Clippers have to be more physical against the Grizzlies if they hope to win this series after the way they were pushed around in Game 2. According Clippers forward Reggie Evans, the Clippers were actually “punked” by Memphis. “We got punked around,” Evans said. “It is what it is. They did a good job of being physical. It showed. The tape don't lie. We just learn from it. It's a great thing that we have a seven-game series ... We were pushed around and that goes for all of us.”  The numbers don’t lie either when it comes to Memphis being the aggressors. The Grizzlies hit 31 of 39 free throws in Game 2 while the Clippers connected on just 13 of 18. Memphis also grabbed 16 offensive rebounds to the Clippers' four. "You could say I got punked around a couple of times," Evans said. "They got 16 offensive rebounds, so what is that a sign of? We got pushed around, punked around, that's what it's a sign of. We just have to bounce back.”

2. Don’t call it a comeback: When Clippers forward Caron Butler went down in the third quarter of Game 1 with a fractured left hand, he was initially listed as being out for 4-6 weeks. That was before Butler decided he was well enough to play with a fractured left hand. Butler saw a hand specialist on Thursday in Los Angeles, shot around with the team on Friday, wearing a brace on the hand, and will attempt to play Saturday if he is cleared by the training staff.  Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Butler would be a game-time decision and could play at some point in this series even if he doesn’t suit up Saturday. "We got a good report yesterday or as good as you could expect," Del Negro said. "He went through some things today and took some shots. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. Caron is a tough guy; he's a battler. He wants to be out there but we also want to be smart about it. I'll evaluate that tomorrow. It was good to see him out there. I think it gives the guys a good boost. He's such a big part of our team and I give him a lot of credit for even being out there. "

3. Turning the page on turnovers: It’s no secret playoff games often come down to which team takes of the ball better. The Clippers finished the season ranked second in the NBA with 13.33 turnovers per game and set a record for the lowest turnover average in franchise history. The problem is the Clippers are going up against a Grizzlies team that led the league in steals (9.6) and forced turnovers (17.1) this year for the secondstraight season. Memphis actually became the first NBA team to lead the league in both categories in consecutive seasons since the 199596 and 199697 Seattle SuperSonics. In Game 2, the Grizzlies recorded 13 steals and forced LA into 21 turnovers, scoring 25 points off the miscues. The turnovers were clearly the difference in the game as the Clippers lost Game 2 despite shooting 56.7 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from three-point range.  Prior to the Clippers, the last team to lose a playoff game despite making at least 56 percent of its total field-goals and three-point field goals was the Utah Jazz on May 10, 1992.

4. Home cooking: The Clippers have only lost one game at Staples Center since holding an hour-long, closed-door meeting after a March 15 loss to the Phoenix Suns. That one loss was to the Los Angeles Lakers, which also call Staples Center home. The Clippers success at home not only bodes well for them in Game 3 but also in the series if they win the game. In the history of the NBA playoffs, when the home team has won Game 3 of a best-of-seven series that was tied at one win each, it has gone on to win the series 70.3 percent of the time.  When the home team has lost in that situation, it has gone on to win the series only 17.1 percent of the time.

5. Playing big late: The Clippers are shooting 64.9 from the field in the fourth quarter in this series, which is by far the highest fourth quarter field-goal percentage for any team in the 2012 playoffs. The next highest is 52.0 percent by Philadelphia.  Six of the eight Clippers who have attempted at least one shot in the fourth quarter are shooting over 57 percent from the field in the final period, including Bobby Simmons and Reggie Evans, who are a combined 5-for-5. Paul is shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 90.0 percent from the free throw line in this year’s playoffs.  Only two other players have made at least half of their field-goal attempts and at least 90 percent of their free-throw attempts in the 2012 playoffs.