The Memphis Grizzlies have to be confident heading into yet another elimination game on Friday night, after securing a 92-80 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 5 to continue the series play back at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. With tonight’s game tipping off at 9:00 PM ET, once more Memphis will try to even the score by getting out to a hot start, and play lockdown defense on the Clippers’ top scorers including Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
On Wednesday, Memphis was able to quickly take control of Game 5 despite the pressure of being down three games to one in the series, jumping out to a 1st quarter lead on 36 points, while holding Lob City to just 22 points, and no more than 23 in any given quarter during that game. What was truly impressive was the fact that Memphis did not hit a single 3-pointer, going 0-for-6 from beyond the arc, and only produced 20 points in bench scoring on the evening. However, what Memphis was able to do on the defensive side of the ball, holding the Clippers to just 38 points in the second half, and keeping both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul under 20 points on the night. The Clips shot just 37.1 percent from the floor, and now face growing concern as to the health of their two main stars, as both Paul and Griffin were injured in the 12-point loss on the road. Coming back home, Los Angeles will need both its stars near 100 percent to make the final push, but with Blake Griffin nursing a sprained knee, and Chris Paul likely less than healthy with a strained hip flexor, the Clippers are going to need to find some step-up talent from their bench to hold back the tide of a confidence Grizzlies squad. There’s a number of players that could find improvement in Game 6, but if the Clips bench and front court plays as poorly as they did on Game 5, Los Angeles will leave things up to fate to face a final elimination game of their own back in the hostile FedEx Forum in Memphis.
Keys to the Los Angeles Clippers success tonight starts with a solid defensive effort from the get-go, and continues with getting some big play out of players that have struggled to be effective in the last couple of games during this series. Los Angeles simply cannot have Memphis get out to another torrid start, as the Grizzlies learned their lesson about big leads and how quickly they can disappear during the playoffs. Memphis was hugely successful coming out strong in Game 5, just as they did in the eventually-botched Game 1 back at home, and will look to set a strong pace and utilize their outside shooters to once again put LA in an early hole. Aside from better perimeter defense with Chris Paul, Randy Foye and Caron Butler charged with stopping Memphis’ top shooters in Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo, the focus has also got to be on limiting the effectiveness of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint, as those two big men finally stepped up and delivered in Game 5 to force tonight’s showdown. Memphis managed a whopping 48 points in the paint on Wednesday (to LA’s 26), had a +7 advantage in rebounding, while Los Angeles played a small lineup, getting just 20 points in total from their three biggest inside players. Reggie Evans, despite pulling down 9 boards, was held to just 4 points in 28 minutes, taking only 2 shots. DeAndre Jordan was a complete no-show, accumulating 1 point and no rebounds in 19 minutes of play, taking no shots at the basket. Though back-up point guard Mo Williams had an admirable game with 20 points off the bench, only 6 total points were scored from the rest of the Clippers reserves, something that has to change for LA to have success in Game 6. Memphis is sure to come out swinging again with their backs up against the wall, and if the supporting Clippers cast can’t produce a well rounded game especially with lingering injury issues affecting Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Caron Butler, Memphis will soon be headed home with the advantage in the series finally back on their side, and an opportunity to dash Los Angeles’ second round playoff hopes with a 3rd consecutive victory.
Memphis on the other hand will simply focus on doing the same thing they did in Game 5, which is to get out quick on offense, shut down the interior around the basket, and avoid letting either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul get the Clippers into a rhythm. They’ll have a huge advantage if Griffin is limited in minutes this evening, or if he further aggravates his knee sprain, a very big possibility considering how rough and tumble this series has been inside the paint. The player of the game to watch inside is Marc Gasol, who is stepping up at precisely the right time for the Grizzlies. Hitting for 23 points, 7 boards and going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe, Gasol will be tasked with once again shutting down DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Reggie Evans. If he can effectively keep Evans and Jordan subdued once again, Los Angeles will struggle to find the scoring depth needed to compete. Another player to keep an eye on is Mike Conley, who had an off-night in Game 5 but could excel with Los Angeles hurting a bit in the back court with Chris Paul’s injury. There will likely be space for outside shooting especially as a physical game wears on down the stretch, and Conley has to step up and produce alongside Rudy Gay, as does OJ Mayo, who should be in line to have a better shooting night tonight after a 1-for-6 effort in Game 5. Though Memphis was able to produce and win even without a sizeable contribution from its bench scorers, a step-up game from the reserve big men including Marreese Speights or Dante Cunningham would certainly help the Grizzlies to stay fresh and ready for a big push down in the final minutes of the game.
Betting lines for Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies at Intertops Sportsbook.
The balance seems to have swung into Memphis’ favor for their road game at Los Angeles tonight, with the injured Blake Griffin and Chris Paul pushing the favorite over to the Grizzlies, who will be -125 favorites to win straight up on the road tonight. The Clippers on the other hand get +105 odds at home, a rarity but a cautionary mark with uncertainly around the health of the team.
Against the spread, the game moves even tighter, with 1.5 points available between the two teams. Memphis must cover the 1.5 points at -110 odds, and Los Angeles gets just +1.5 points for underdog pickers to play around with.
The Over/Under on tonight’s showdown stands at a small 180 points, once again considering better defensive play and the likelihood that Los Angeles’ stars could see reduced minutes, or be less effective. That said, expect also that Los Angeles’ defensive efforts may be hindered tonight, and if Memphis is able to get out and run with the basketball, the points total could easily get pushed over.
This should be a great game to watch and wager on at Intertops Sportsbook on Friday, so get your bets in place, continue with additional research and look for betting trends on this crucial showdown, and hopefully come out with some added weekend cash in your pocket post game-time!