The Memphis Grizzlies are on the brink of elimination in the playoffs because they simply have no answer for L.A. Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
From the start of the series to Game 4, CP3 has been the best player on the court. He willed his team to a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Game 1, then he has been absolutely unstoppable in games 2-3-4. He scored 29 points in a 105-98 loss in Game 2, but bounced back with 24 points and 11 assists in an 87-86 win in Game 3, then had a spectacular fourth quarter in the Clippers’ 101-97 win Tuesday night to give the Clippers a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Paul finished with 27 points in 42 minutes in Game 4 at Staples Center, including eight points in overtime.
“We’re a resilient bunch, but I knew that pretty much going into the series. We showed that in our Game 1 win, but in Game 3 and Game 4 we showed a lot of grit,” said Paul, who is averaging 23 points and eight assists against the Grizzlies in the first round.
Heading into the opening-round series the Grizzlies were thought of as the one with the grit and the toughness, having shown it in last season’s monumental upset over the San Antonio Spurs. But through the first four games, it’s the Clippers who are showing some toughness and the biggest reason is their little floor general.
“We’re trying to shut down Chris Paul. He’s the problem, gotta solve the problem,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said after his team lost Game 4. “We just gotta stay with our schemes. I thought down the stretch they ran a couple of pick-and-rolls and we decided on the court to do something different instead of staying with what we’re supposed to do. We got hung up, and now [Paul] is taking the big guy and he’s pulling up shooting jump shots without a smaller guy getting up in his face. Down the stretch, Chris Paul made all the plays.”
When asked if he has other options to guard Paul, Hollins says he has been satisfied with the way Tony Allen and Mike Conley has defended Paul. They just need more help.
“Tony Allen has done a great job, Mike Conley has done a great job. We’re going against a great player. You guys keep talking about defensive players. The guy is a great player, and that’s what great players do. We just gotta see if we can take the bull by the horns before we get to the fourth quarter.”
Expect Hollins to keep Allen and Conley on Paul unless both get into foul trouble. He’ll try to avoid putting Conley on Paul for much of the game because the Grizzlies need to save Conley’s legs on offense, so that leaves Allen — who was an All-NBA defender last season — with the unenviable task of trying to slow down CP3.
One adjustment Hollins could make is by trapping Paul off the pick-and-rolls quicker so he doesn’t have time to turn the corner, but Paul is so clever coming off picks that he gets big guys in foul trouble by flopping a little bit when he gets bumped.
If the Grizzlies are unable to corral Paul, then this series is not going to last very long.