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VOL. 127 | NO. 93 | Friday, May 11, 2012

Box Scores Reveal Grizzlies’ Strengths

By Don Wade

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Two box scores. In one, right there in black and white, is the proof that the Memphis Grizzlies hit 11-of-16 three-point shots (68.8 percent). In the other is the evidence of an 0-for-6 night from three-point range, which even a math-challenged sports writer can figure out is 00.0 percent.

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol shoots over Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin in the second half of Game 5 of the teams’ first-round playoff series at FedExForum. The Grizzlies won the game 92-80.

(Photo: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

But that box score without any made three pointers? It’s also showing off a 48-26 advantage on points in the paint. It also indicates center Marc Gasol scored 23 points and power forward Zach Randolph had 19. It’s Game 5 on Wednesday, May 9 at FedExForum when the Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 92-80, to force a Game 6 at Staples Center Friday night, May 11, the Grizz trailing in the series 3-2.

Oh, and that other box score? It’s the one you want to forget, the Clippers outscoring the Grizzlies 54-38 in the paint, rallying from a 24-point deficit in the fourth quarter to steal a 99-98 victory in Game 1 here. And for the record? Gasol and Randolph combined for 20 points instead of the 42 they netted in Game 5.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said point guard Mike Conley. “But it’s who this team is. We win in the paint whether it’s with dribble-drives or post feeds.”

Gasol’s scoring in the first four games: 14 points in Game 1; 8 in Game 2; 11 in Game 3; 8 in Game 4. He took only five shots in Game 3 and only four in Game 4. It’s not easy to lose a 7-1, 265-pound Spaniard, but somehow the Grizzlies did just that until Game 5.

The offense started with Gasol and he had a dominant first quarter, hitting 6-of-8 attempts for 12 points. Randolph scored 15 first-quarter points on a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the field and knocked down three free throws.

“We knew they were going to go back to their bread and butter,” said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. “(Gasol) and Zach were going to get force-fed the ball inside. They got a lot of easy touches at the beginning of the game.”

Which was just what Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins wanted.

“I had talked to them earlier about needing to play better,” Hollins said. “They needed to work harder to get the ball in the post, and we needed to make sure we threw it to them when they were open. They got off to a good start.”

Even with the strong start, the second half was a struggle. The Grizzlies scored 36 of their points in the paint in the first half, only 12 in the second half. Gasol put up just three second-half shots and missed all of them; Randolph went 0-for-4 from the floor in the second half.

“Well, they are going to make adjustments,” Gasol said. “You throw the ball inside, they are going to come out and try to front you. What they do pretty well is press the guards so that they get us out of our offense. So, we take the shots we don’t really want – weaker shots.”

But in Game 5, the Grizzlies survived the tough times. When Mo Williams hit a 13-foot pull-up jumper with 6:14 left in the game, the Grizzlies’ lead was down to six points and the panic meter was running high. The Grizzlies had led by 24 with 3:02 left in the third quarter and the Clippers then started cutting deep into the lead.

“We dug ourselves a big hole,” said Clippers guard Mo Williams, who scored 20 points. “They played well. They played like their back was against the wall. We waited too late to play.”

This time, L.A. point guard Chris Paul, who re-aggravated a groin injury, did not change the game. He still scored 19 points, but was far less dangerous making plays for others as he had only four assists.

Hollins played Quincy Pondexter the entire fourth quarter – Tony Allen was left on the bench but for a few seconds – and the coach singled out Pondexter for his effort defending Paul.

“He did a nice job,” Hollins said. “He was one of the few guys that kept Chris in front of him. Everyone else was letting him get on the side of them and then (Paul’s) getting to the basket and getting behind you. Nobody can really stop Chris, but just (Quincy) being in the game gave us another body and another defensive player that could go on the other end and make an open shot if he was left alone.”

If the Grizzlies can win Game 6 in L.A., it would force a Game 7 at FedExForum on Sunday, May 13. The path back to Memphis goes through L.A. and – clearly – through the paint.

“That’s what we need to do, play inside-out,” Randolph said. “That’s what got us here, so that’s what we have to keep doing.”

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