May 13, 2012, 12:20 PM EDT
The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers face off in Game 7 Sunday. Here are five things to watch.
1. At Least You’ve Got Your Health, Or Not: It’s become a pretty big deal that Blake Griffin has a sore knee (no ligament damage known of at this time) and that Chris Paul has a hip flexor. The hip significantly bothered Paul at the end of Game 6, keeping him from being able to try and close the game. Lost in all of this is that Memphis has dealt with a sore knee for Tony Allen, their best perimeter defender, Zach Randolph is less than four weeks back from a ligament tear in his knee, and that it’s the playoffs. Everyone’s banged up. The Clippers aren’t going to get easy dunks at the basket, most times in these games. If they want to advance, they’re going to have to tough through it. This game may simply come down to attrition and who has anything left.
2. Painting Classes: Whoever wins inside wins the game. That’s pretty simple. If it’s Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dropping the ball in with expert passing and a soft touch, Memphis advances. If it’s Blake Griffin and Reggie Evans (?!) and Kenyon Martin getting easy dunks on the pick and roll, the Clippers will go on. The battle inside has determined this series, with Memphis’ 3-1 comeback cued by their improved emphasis on getting the ball to their bigs.
3. Expect The Unexpected: Reggie Evans has been a huge swing in this series. His effort on free throw attempt rebounds and making the tough, scrappy plays has given the Clippers life. That Evans has manged to do this without consistently fouling out, turning the ball over, or completely and totally losing his man in rotations stands in stark contrast to his recent career. But this is the playoffs. Someone’s going to have to get unlikely contributions. The Grizzlies had a big momentum swing in Game 6 from Hamed Haddadi. Whoever gets someone to step up who you don’t see coming gets a big edge.
4. Controlling Whistles: This is a fierce, physical series. Both sides are getting hit, and both sides feel the officials aren’t being fair to them. The officials have tended to call more whistles on drives than in the post, and that’s a pattern that helps the Clippers. If contact is allowed on swipes and bodies and elbows inside, that helps the Clippers, because most of their action starts on the perimeter and goes in. Getting a handle on the zebras is key, and if there are adjustments that have to be made, make them.
5. One Shot At A Time: This game could come down to Chris Paul in isolation vs. Rudy Gay in isolation. If that happens, who do you think comes out on top? The Grizzlies have lived and died by late game situations in this series. They have to make sure it doesn’t come down to a Rudy Gay pull-up jumper.
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