Grizzlies-Clippers Game 7 preview: Do or die at the Grindhouse

Zach Randolph will look to deliver a first round series win to the home crowd for the second straight year.   (Getty Images)

A preview of Game 7 of a Western Conference first round playoff series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers.

1. Where We're At:
 The Memphis Grizzlies launched a fourth quarter comeback to steal Game 6 at Staples Center on Friday, evening the series at 3 games apiece. The winner of Game 7 will face the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. The Spurs swept the Utah Jazz in four games.

2. The Big Number:  28-8. The Grizzlies are now 28-8 at home in the FedEx Forum (including 2-1 in the playoffs) and are 3-1 on the season against the Clippers in Memphis. The only loss to L.A. at the "Grindhouse," of course, was the improbable Game 1 meltdown which saw the Clippers climb back in historic fashion from a 27-point deficit. What better time for the comforts of home and a raucous, friendly crowd than in a a 7-game series that's been fought tooth-and-nail throughout? Teams kill for homecourt advantage because it provides that razor edge between evenly-matched teams, and this series qualifies: through six games, Memphis has outscored L.A. by a composite total of 568-553. The Grizzlies also take the court on Sunday with the knowledge that they closed out the heavily-favored Spurs at home in the 2011 playoffs.

3. Key Adjustment: In back-to-back wins in Game 5 and Game 6, the Grizzlies got back to doing what they do best: pounding the Clippers' interior defense with their big man tandem of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The pair combined for 42 points and 17 rebounds in Game 5 and 41 points and 25 rebounds in Game 6. That's big time production, numbers that simply can't be matched by the Clippers' frontcourt. In turn, the inside-outside approach makes life easier for the likes of Rudy Gay and Mike Conley while also putting added pressure on L.A.'s perimeter players to hit threes, something they didn't do in Game 5 (7-for-24) or Game 6 (4-for-15). 

4. The Big Story: This one likely boils down to momentum and health. Chris Paul was performing at a fraction of his greatness in Game 6. He posted a respectable line of 11 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals, but he was unable to take control of the late-game action as he has so many times this season. Memphis went on a 17-4 run during the fourth quarter, stunning the Staples Center crowd and seemingly draining the fire and confidence from what has been a lively Clippers bunch. They left the court as confident could be; the Clippers looked more than a touch defeated. Unusual scheduling -- Game 7 is scheduled to tip at 1 p.m EST on Sunday -- makes for just a 40-hour turnaround time from Game 6, even with the flight from California to Tennessee. In other words, there's not much in the way of recuperation or wound-licking time to be found for L.A.  

5. The Facts: 1 p.m. EST tipoff. Blake Griffin (hyperflexed knee) and Chris Paul (groin issues) are both expected to play. Both injuries were suffered during Game 5 on Wednesday. Both were listed as game-time decisions before starting Game 6. Griffin played 39 minutes; Paul played 40 minutes. The Grizzlies are good to go.
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