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Clippers face two big challenges

L.A. hasn't been able to handle Memphis forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol in playoff series, so the pressure is on to do a better job.

April 29, 2013|By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times
  • Clippers forward Blake Griffin struggles to drive past Grizzlies big men Zach Randolph (50) and Marc Gasol (33) late in Game 2.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin struggles to drive past Grizzlies big men… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

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So far in their Western Conference first-round playoff series, the Clippers have not found a way to handle Memphis All-Star power forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol.

That has shifted a lot of the pressure on the Clippers' All-Star power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan to deal with the Grizzlies' dynamic duo.

As much as anyone, Randolph and Gasol are the reasons why the Grizzlies won the last two games to tie the best-of-seven series, 2-2.

Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center, and it will provide Griffin and Jordan another opportunity to wrestle with Randolph and Gasol.

"Man, it's tough," Chris Paul said Monday. "It'll probably be impossible to find another big-man combination like that in the league. And they are like two old-school big guys. They bang and do different things."

Randolph and Gasol went into what NBA players call "beast mode" in Games 3 and 4 in taking their games to another level. They combined to average 45.5 points on 56.4% shooting and 20.5 rebounds in Memphis' two wins.

Somehow, the Clippers need to slow down that pair.

"It's going to take a collective unit, all of us," Paul said. "So we can't just put all of it on our big guys. Us guards got to get in there and bang with them. And then we've got to run them. Those first couple of games here, we managed to get them into foul trouble."

For the four-game series, Griffin is averaging 16.5 points on 46.2% shooting, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 31.1 minutes and Jordan is averaging 2.8 points on 41.7% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 24.1 minutes.

The Clippers don't expect Jordan to be an offensive force for them — he's five for 12 from the field in the first four games — but they do expect their 24-year-old center to rebound and to be a presence on defense against Gasol and Randolph.

"I think what we have to do is try to slow them down as much as possible," Jordan said. "We have to keep our hands on them. There can't be space, especially on defense. On the rebounding, you can't give them space because they'll take it up."

Speaking of rebounding, in the first three games, Jordan averaged eight per game.

In Game 4, he had two.

"If I'm averaging eight rebounds in the first three games," Jordan said, "I can't come back and get two in Game 4."

Randolph is averaging team highs in scoring (19.3 points per game), shooting (56.4%) and rebounding (8.0 rebounds), and Gasol is second-best in scoring (18.3), rebounding (7.5), assists (3.8), with 1.8 blocks and leads the Grizzlies at 40.8 minutes per game.

In the two games in Memphis, the Clippers were outrebounded, 90-61, and outscored, 44-6, in second-chance points. The Clippers have given up 42 offensive rebounds in the series.

"We have to try to beat them at their own game, which is rebounding, hustle plays, things like that," Jordan said. "Take that away from them and make them do things that they don't want to do."

It's not win or go home for the Clippers.

But it is win at home Tuesday night or face playoff elimination in Game 6 in Memphis on Friday night.

"Tomorrow is the biggest game of the season for us," Paul said. "We've got to win this game."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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