The first-round lineups aren’t quite set just yet, but the odds are extremely high the Grizzlies will face the Clippers for a second straight year. Last year’s first round series was brutally close, coming down a seventh game, and throughout the course of the series, the two teas developed a distinct a distaste for one another. It’s becoming quite clear the Grizzlies-Clippers is on its way to becoming a great NBA rivalry.
The team’s are relative opposites. The Grizzlies lack a flat-out superstar, but thrive on tough defense, and offensive patience. the Clippers are the exact, coming at with you with loads of flashy alley-oops from “Lob City.” When you watch the two teams play, you get the feeling that two styles are clashing against each other – the tough “in the mud” mentality of the grizzlies versus the high-flying athleticism of the Clippers.
In the playoffs, the biggest challenge facing the Grizzlies will be preventing the Clippers from too many easy buckets. In Saturday Night’s game, DeAndre Jordan was dominant int he post (in the first half anyway), taking advantage of Marc Gasol landing in early foul trouble. Meanwhile, the Clippers’ biggest challenge will be hanging with the grizzlies all 48 minutes. This is a team that doesn’t get tired easily, and will be knocking you around on defense for a full 48 minutes. Tony Allen’s job will to be contain the crossover connoisseur known as Jamal Crawford, while mike Conley will have his hands full with Chris Paul.
But while the individual match-ups and play styles are fun to discuss, the real intrigue comes from wondering if tempers will flare once again. Will Z-Bo threaten to beat the ass of Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan, will the Clippers flop as flagrantly as they did in last year’s series (maybe I come off like a homer here, but come on, that was pretty bad)? Those are the truly fascinating questions going into what should be a great first round series.
If these two teams have another thrilling first-round duel, this will officially become a rivalry – even better if the Grizzlies win, which would even the playoff series at one. When two teams play each other in the playoffs, there’s always a fair chance they’ll wind up hating each other’s guts. That certainly happened last May. Now, if they pla each other for a second-straight year, the hate will get amped up considerably.
These are two franchises in very similar spots. Both the grizzlies and the Clippers were among the bigger laughingstocks in the NBA for years. Now, they’ve each dug themselves out of the gutter at the same time, and they’re each trying to take the next step – sustained playoff success. That the two biggest underdogs in the league are standing in each others way is an amusing, if somewhat tragic irony, but it’s definitely going to make for some great basketball.