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Clippers vs. Grizzlies, the sequel, promises to be contentious

A feisty rivalry seems to have developed after Clippers beat Memphis in a seven-game playoff series last year. Now they meet in first round again, starting Saturday.

April 19, 2013|By Broderick Turner

Chris Paul was told after practice Friday that his team, the Clippers, is not well-liked by the Memphis Grizzlies.

"I wouldn't either if I [was beaten] in a seven-game series last year," Paul said.

So now, a year after the Clippers' seven-game victory over Memphis, the Grizzlies have a chance at some revenge as the teams meet in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Game 1 is Saturday night and Game 2 is Monday night — both at Staples Center.

Last season, the Clippers made history in Game 1 by coming back from 27 points down and then won a momentous Game 7 in Memphis.

So, Paul was asked again, is there animosity between the teams?

"Man, I don't know," he said. "I don't know too many of them personally like that. I know Tayshaun [Prince] really well.

"I just want to beat you. I don't care about you off the court. I care about your well-being, but I just want to beat you in a basketball game. It ain't nothing more than that. I've got too much going on to be worrying about your personal life."

When the regular season started last October, the Clippers and Grizzlies played each other in Los Angeles. It was a physical, trash-talking game that the Clippers won.

Paul admitted that perhaps the NBA was trying to develop a rivalry between the teams.

"Yeah, no question, I think sometimes a rivalry is formed after you play a team in the playoffs," Paul said. "So, I definitely think so. The fact that we played them last year in a seven-game series is definitely something to talk about."

The Clippers got some good news Friday on the injury front. Blake Griffin, who experienced back spasms Wednesday night during the regular-season finale in Sacramento, practiced Friday and will play against Memphis.

"It's better," Griffin said. "I'm going to work on it . . . and I should be good."

Griffin will need all his strength to deal with Memphis power forward Zach Randolph, an aggressive player and he likes to challenge Griffin's toughness.

"That's his whole M.O., to frustrate guys and do his thing under the basket and play a physical game," Griffin said. "But I like playing physical, too. So, we'll see."

Last season, veteran guard Chauncey Billups missed the playoffs after February surgery to repair a torn left Achilles' tendon.

Though he played in just 22 regular-season games for the Clippers this season, including the final two, Billups says he's ready for the playoffs.

"I'm just excited to be out there and not have to watch," Billups said. "So this is great for me. Obviously I feel like I could have helped the team last year in the playoffs. This year I will have that opportunity so I'm just excited really to be back out there."

The Clippers won the season series, three games to one. But they know they have a worthy opponent in Memphis.

"We're in a situation where if we play the way we know how to play, we don't have to worry about what they're doing," Paul said. "We can impose our will, pick up the tempo and just play."

Etc.

Because the Clippers and Grizzlies finished with identical 56-26 records, the NBA held a drawing Friday to break the tie between the two teams to determine their draft order. The Clippers won the tiebreaker and will get the 25th pick in the NBA draft June 27.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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