Los Angeles- The bench players on the Los Angeles Clippers had an epic moment at Staples Center on Saturday. Seven players scored in double figures and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 112-91 in Game 1 of their first round, best-of-seven series Western Conference playoff matchup.
The Clippers’ reserves showed just why they are known to have one of the best benches in the league. Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Chauncey Billups combined to score 42-points in the game. The rest of the bench players-Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, and Ronny Turiaf-did the small things you need to do to win games against an elite team like Memphis.
When you have a deep bench like the Clippers it will be hard to beat them.
“I stay in Bledsoe’s ear because he’s the catalyst,” guard Chris Paul said. “He’s the guy that’s the game-changer. When he’s playing with that aggressive mentality on both ends of the court, we’re tough to beat.”
It wasn’t a showdown that we usually see between these two teams when they play. Memphis is a team that likes to grind it out. The Clippers, at least for one game, was able to put a stop to it. The closest Memphis ever got was in the fourth quarter when they cut the lead to one. But the Clippers took firm control of the game from there, going on a 35-15 run.
The Clippers had control throughout the game and outrebounded the best defensive team in the league by a margin of 47-23. The Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined to pull down just six rebounds in the game.
“That’s not acceptable,” Gasol said. “Once we made a stop, they kept running in and getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points. We have to be better than that. The rebounds were the difference.”
When you think of a Grizzlies-Clippers matchup, you think of a Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph battle. Well, tonight the only encounter both players had was with referees and their whistle. They were both hit with fouls every minute of the game-which eventually led Griffin to fouling out.
Randolph finished the game with five fouls. Both players were taken out of the usual away they play due to foul trouble, playing just 25 minutes.
Expect to see more minutes from both players in Game 2. Griffin only scored 10 points and the Clippers were able to win the game by 20 points. That alone speaks volumes about this team. Maybe they learned their lesson from last year in the playoffs. It’s only the first game, but there was a huge difference in the players’ performance this year versus last year in the postseason.
If the Clippers can stay consistent, they will put themselves in a great position to win this series. At some point, Memphis will get going. So the Clippers will have to figure out a way to control their physical style of play. Memphis is the kind of team that won’t give up and will creep up on you. Expect to see a different Grizzlies team on Monday night.
The truth of the matter is we are not seeing the same Memphis team we saw last year in the playoffs. Where is the heart and soul? Where is the blue collar team that fights and grinds? Maybe the Clippers are just that good. Either way, this is supposed to be one of the best series in the Western Conference playoffs. So far, it’s disappointing.
“It’s going to be physical every single game,” Griffin said. “So as long as at the end of the game we’re winning that rebounding battle and we’re up, I’m cool with it.”
Tamara is a graduate of Cal State Los Angeles where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tamara is passionate about covering sports. She has covered the NBA and Major League Baseball routinely for the past several years. A Southern California native, Tamara developed her skills as a sports journalist while working for various Los Angeles-based news publications.