Now that the Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers are tied 1-1 in their first-round playoff series, let’s look at what we know for sure.
Yes, Zach Randolph, we see you with your hand in the air.
“They know we’re capable of winning,” Randolph said, “and we know they’re capable of winning.”
Can’t argue that.
Yes, Marc Gasol, we see you, too. Your comment?
“It’s gonna be a fun series.”
And by fun, he means competitive to the death. Isn’t this just what the teacher, alias Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, has been telling us all along?
It is. And it’s why in the face of the Grizzlies’ epic Game 1 collapse – blowing a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter – Hollins conveyed no panic. Rather, he pulled out all the coaching clichés – it’s a long series, there’s a lot of basketball still to be played – and somehow made them sound like truths just waiting to be proved.
So, in Game 2 Wednesday, May 2, at FedExForum, the Grizzlies set about making Hollins look like a prophet. By winning 105-98, the Grizzlies restored their belief and tossed Lob City a huge helping of doubt.
They did it by reclaiming the paint, especially with 16 offensive rebounds to just four for the Clippers, and again acting like the league leaders in steals as they made 13 heists in Game 2 and created general havoc.
“Too many offensive rebounds, too many turnovers,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “That’s what they live on and we helped them.”
Just as the Grizzlies breathed life into the Clippers with the Game 1 meltdown. Like Randolph said, each team is capable of winning. But each team is also quite capable of imploding. They are good teams, not great teams.
Clippers point guard Chris Paul can take over a game and forward Blake Griffin can take over an ESPN SportsCenter. But the Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo can start an offensive fire, as he did in Game 2, and so can several other players, including Rudy Gay, Gasol and Randolph.
The Grizzlies fought injuries all during the regular season and now the Clippers are banged up with starting forward Caron Butler gone for the postseason after breaking a bone in his hand.
If the Grizzlies can take one of the next two games, played Saturday and Monday in L.A., they have a great chance to advance.
They’ve already proven they know how to survive.
Don Wade is a native of Kansas City and a former feature writer for The Kansas City Star and sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal. His column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News.