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

Don Wade

Grizz Get Back To Formula That Worked All Year

By Don Wade

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Tony Allen has a way of getting to the heart of things. “We went through our All-Star Marc Gasol,” Allen said after the Grizzlies won Game 5 of their playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers, 92-80, at FedExForum, Gasol scoring 23 points. “He was big for us.”

Yes, BIG is the operative word. Gasol is 7-1 and 265 pounds. And in a season in which Zach Randolph, despite a nice Game 5, still isn’t the player he was last season, and Rudy Gay is still Rudy Gay – talented, yes; Kevin Durant-like, no – the Grizzlies’ best chance is to start with Gasol and adjust from there.

They did this in Game 5 and they will need to do it again in Game 6 Friday, May 11, in L.A. And again in an “if necessary” Game 7 here two days later.

So the Grizzlies played through the paint and a fine strategy it was. “Guys really bought into it,” said point guard Mike Conley.

But will they “buy in” when they get to Tinseltown? Shooters shoot and in Game 5, O.J. Mayo again struggled – 1-for-6 from the floor, 1-for-4 from 3-point range – and Gay finished with just 14 points.

The Clippers’ task will be to make Gay, Mayo and Conley beat them, not Gasol and Randolph. The Clippers lost their poise a bit in Game 5, receiving five technicals including one on coach Vinny Del Negro. But afterward they didn’t exactly sound devastated they had not closed out the series.

“Once we get to Staples Center,” said guard Randy Foye, “we will take care of business.”

Perhaps. Point guard Chris Paul (groin, hip) and dunk-machine Blake Griffin (knee) are hurting, but then so is Randolph. “I’m not as strong as I want to be,” he said referring to his right knee. “But I can’t cry and whine.”

There’s enough of that from both teams every time the whistle blows; in fact, Paul should get an endorsement deal for pacifiers.

The Clippers lead a physical series, 3-2, and it will probably get even rougher in Game 6. If it does, the Grizzlies will be best-served to play the initiators – pounding the paint and refusing to settle for soft shots, jump shots.

Extending the series to six games was better than the alternative, but the true Grit & Grind test remains.

As Gasol himself said: “We haven’t done anything yet.”

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.

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