First-round preview: No 4. Grizzlies vs. No. 5 Clippers
This should be the best series of the first round, Lob City against Grind City, in-your-face against over-your-head. The Clippers are in the playoffs for the first time in six years, but Chris Paul did not join them just to qualify. He did that in New Orleans. The Clippers are trying to sell Paul on a long-term contract extension and the result here will help or hurt their pitch.
With Paul, the Clippers have an advantage on the perimeter, but their inconsistent post defense will be vulnerable against Memphis center Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies are a different team than the one that toppled the Spurs in the first round last year. They now have a healthy Rudy Gay to create outside offense, but Zach Randolph is still struggling to come back from his MCL tear and could be limited to a bench role.
The Clippers and the Grizzlies are as even as any first-round foes. Games will go down to the wire and so will the series. The Clippers have the better closer, with Paul, but the Grizzlies are able to get easier baskets inside, with Gasol. Memphis also has more experience in this setting, plus a raucous home-court advantage, significant because so little separates the two teams. This could go either way, but the Grizzlies will do just enough to limit the Clippers' running game and force them into half-court sets, with Griffin taking jump shots outside of his comfort zone.