MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Grizzlies have had a chance to sleep in their own beds and are ready to get back to playing Memphis basketball. That means rebounding, dominating the paint and some sticky defense.
Keeping Zach Randolph on the floor and out of foul trouble also would be a big help.
“Even last year, they let us play a little bit more, and it seems like this year, they kind of focusing … on me and Blake,” Randolph said of Clippers forward Blake Griffin. “So it’s kind of been like that. Little ticky tack here and there.”
Coach Lionel Hollins has his own idea on his Grizzlies can adjust to the officiating Thursday night with Game 3 here in Memphis.
“Stop committing ticky tack fouls,” Hollins said. “When you know the referees going to call them, you got to stop committing them.”
Randolph wasn’t fully recovered from an injured knee when the Clippers beat Memphis in seven games to open the postseason a year ago. He’s healthy now but was limited to less than 25 minutes as Los Angeles routed the Grizzlies in Game 1. He played nearly 31 minutes in Monday night’s 93-91 loss as he and Griffin picked up double fouls for a second straight game, but Randolph was on the floor the least of any of Memphis’ starters.
“We just got to come out and play basketball …,” Randolph said. “They had their crowd behind them. We fought hard both games. We had a chance to win. They won on their home court. That’s what we’ve got to do the same thing.”
Getting Randolph in foul trouble has been part of the Clippers’ plan to chip at the Grizzlies’ edge both in rebounding and scoring in the paint. The Clippers had a 50-46 scoring edge in the paint winning Monday night, and Griffin said they want to attack Randolph so that the forward has to either foul or get out of the way.
“As long as he’s not getting the rebound, we’re headed in the right direction,” Griffin said. “I just have to keep my body on him, make sure he’s accounted for at all times, and gang up on him like we did last time. He’s tough to handle.”
Griffin fouled out in the opening game but scored 21 points with eight rebounds in Game 2. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Griffin has to pick his spots against Memphis.
“If they’re going to single-cover him, then he’s got to attack and make them pay for that and try to get guys in foul trouble,” Del Negro said. “If they’re going to double him, he’s got to make plays and get the ball out, and we’ve got to do a good job making teams pay for that. Blake’s going to do what helps us win. If they double him, he’s got to make the right play. If they single-cover him, he’s got to make them pay for that too.”
The Clippers dominated on the boards to open the series, beating the Grizzlies with their own style. Mike Conley said guards must help out Randolph and center Marc Gasol, named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, with the Clippers so long and adept at tipping balls out near the 3-point line with no Memphis guard to be found.
“We have to do a better job coming back and picking up those 50-50 balls,” Conley said. “If we can do that, we’ll be in business.”
The Clippers practiced in Los Angeles before catching a flight to Memphis for what guard Chris Paul, who scored the game-winning shot Monday night, called a business trip looking for a 10th straight win overall and a 3-0 series lead. Complacency is not an issue for the Clippers.
“We have enough veteran leadership to know how important these games are,” Paul said.
So do the Grizzlies, who trailed the Clippers 3-1 a year ago before winning two straight to force a Game 7 that Los Angeles won here in Memphis.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Conley said. “We get to be in front of our home crowd … Game 2 we feel like we were one or two plays away from winning that one. It’s a tough loss, but we have to put that in the backseat now and worry about what’s going on tomorrow. We’re playing another tough game. We know it’s going to be a dog fight, and we need to win it.”