HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The playoffs are just four days away. And with the Sixers’ win in New Jersey on Monday, 15 of the 16 teams have punched their ticket to the postseason.
Only one first round series, Celtics-Hawks is set in stone. But a few more are written in pencil. And one of those is Clippers-Grizzlies, the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the Western Conference.
Clips-Grizz should feature one of the best individual matchups of the postseason: The offense of Chris Paul vs. the defense of Tony Allen.
The Clippers rank fifth in offensive efficiency, mostly because of Paul. They’re scoring 109 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and just 95 with him on the bench.
The Grizzlies rank seventh in defensive efficiency, mostly because of Allen. They’ve allowed 96 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and 102 with him on the bench.
One of Paul’s best attributes is his ability to take care of the ball. His assist-turnover ratio of 4.39 ranks second in the league. And as a team, the Clippers rank fourth by turning the ball over just 14.3 times per 100 possessions.
Allen’s best attribute is forcing turnovers. He ranks third in the league (Paul ranks first) with 3.26 steals per 48 minutes. And as a team, the Grizzlies lead the league by forcing 18.2 turnovers per 100 possessions.
On Monday, Allen registered a career-high eight steals in the Grizzlies’ win over the Cavs. Ron Higgins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has the story…
Welcome back Grizzlies’ guard Tony Allen.
Allen, who has struggled since missing five games in early April with mouth lacerations, was back to his typical defensively disruptive self on Monday night.
He jump-started his sluggish playoff-bound teammates with a franchise-record eight steals, getting his final theft with 36.9 seconds left to preserve a 109-101 Griz victory over the Cavaliers in FedExForum.
“The mouth laceration was a big blow to me, but I’m a fighter and I fight back,” said Allen, who also had 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 8 rebounds, after averaging 3.6 points and 3 rebounds while shooting 27.2 percent from the field in his six games since returning from his injury. “There’s no excuses now. I’m ready to grind it out.”
That’s good news for the Grizzlies, who are 40-25 and still in contention to move from fifth place in the Western Conference to fourth place and home-court advantage in the playoffs that start this weekend.
For that to happen, Memphis has to win its lone remaining regular season game at home on Thursday against Orlando while the fourth-place Clippers (40-24) have to lose their last two games tonight at Atlanta and Wednesday at New York. The Clippers won the season series over the Grizzlies, 2-1, and therefore hold the tiebreaker in case both teams tie for fourth.
We’ll find out soon if Paul and Allen will square off in the first round. If they do, it will be the matchup to watch, and turnovers could be the most important stat of the series.