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Clippers-Grizzlies playoff rematch pits two evenly matched teams

The Clippers open the playoffs at home Saturday against Memphis. The teams met in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the Clippers won that series in seven games.

April 18, 2013|By Broderick Turner
  • Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

It's the playoff rematch of the Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies.

They will be meeting in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs for the second consecutive season.

And if this seven-game series that starts Saturday at Staples Center is anything like last year's, it will be another epic playoff between two teams that have a healthy dislike for each other.

The Clippers won last year's series in historic fashion, taking Game 7 in Memphis against all odds. In the NBA playoffs, visiting teams had won just 19.5% of Game 7s before the Clippers won.

In the teams' playoff opener last season, the Clippers were down 27 points at one point, and they trailed by 21 at the end of the third quarter. But they tied the NBA playoff record for the largest deficit overcome in the fourth quarter, winning Game 1, 99-98.

Now the Clippers and Grizzlies go at it again, two teams that finished the regular season with 56-26 records, two teams that are basically evenly matched, even if the Clippers won the season-series, three games to one.

"Just like last year, it's going to be a battle," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said after Wednesday night's season-ending win at Sacramento. "We're going to have to play big in the biggest moments."

After all the injuries the Clippers have dealt with this season, it can't be a surprise that they have another one.

Blake Griffin suffered back spasms during the Kings game, but he found a way to finish and even came up with two big plays late in the close game.

Griffin's back locked up while shooting before the game, and it limited his ability to run and jump. The Clippers didn't practice Thursday, but Griffin planned on getting treatment.

"It's all right," Griffin said Wednesday night. "I've just got to get it worked on."

Griffin's back spasms arrived just as he has to prepare to deal with Memphis All-Star power forward Zach Randolph.

Randolph is a dominating presence who likes to use his hands on his opponents. He finished the season fourth in the league in rebounds, averaging 11.2 per game. He was first in offensive rebounds, with 4.1 per game.

"It's going to be physical just like it always is," Griffin said. "In the playoffs it's another level. Doing it last year in seven games, I kind of have an idea of what to expect. So we're looking forward to it."

This season the Clippers split two games with the Grizzlies in Los Angeles and won both games in Memphis.

The Grizzlies remain a difficult opponent.

"They win games for a reason," Del Negro said of Memphis. "They've been together for a while. They make it tough on you, especially on the glass.

"As long as we're mentally right and our energy is good, we'll be fine. Hopefully, Blake's back is better in the next couple of days. We'll toss it up and get going."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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