History Will Repeat Itself Between LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 18, 2013

Apr 13, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA;  Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) drives to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies power forward Darrell Arthur (00) during the game at FedEx Forum.  Los Angeles Clippers defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 91-87.    Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden–USA TODAY Sports
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

It will be deja vu all over again when the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies reunite for a rematch of their opening round matchup just one year ago.

This series will be close and definitely physical, but when it's all said and done, the Clippers will be making their second trip to the Western Conference semifinals in as many seasons.

And L.A. might have its narrow 112-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings in its final game to thank for that. With the win, the Clippers secured home-court advantage in this series.

This is what a No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup is supposed to like. Two teams with a puncher's chance at making a Finals run, but both clubs having suffered through enough inconsistent fits to now be facing a formidable first-round foe.

The Clippers, or Lob City to the hoops world, boast a roster befitting of their Hollywood home. Star power extends beyond the starting five. Entertainment trumps substance, at least in the eye of the casual beholder.

But just like the glitz and glam of Tinseltown, it's nothing more than a mirage.

Major media outlets portray Vinny Del Negro's squad as runners and gunners.

That couldn't be much farther from the truth. Thanks to the methodical, shot-clock devouring play of Chris Paul, the Clippers played to the 12th-slowest pace in the league, 93.6 (via ESPN.com).

The Grizzlies underwent a massive transformation when the new Memphis regime cut ties with franchise mainstay Rudy Gay just weeks before the trade deadline. Yet somehow, Lionel Hollins' team emerged on the opposite end of their midseason overhaul carrying the same "grit-and-grind" approach as before.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have a throwback twin-tower dynamic that in some ways seems decades behind the times. They're rugged and bruising, but with a refined offensive polish missing in the enforcers of yesteryear.

That same menacing toughness carries over to the backcourt in the forms of the imposing Tony Allen, the crafty veteran Tayshaun Prince and the up-and-coming Mike Conley. The Memphis wings won't always find easy offensive chances, but they won't allow any uncontested looks to the opposition, either.

The word "toughness" breezes through the Clippers' locker room with a different aura.

Fans question whether the high-flying L.A. bigs can handle the exhaustive effects of postseason play. Some blatant flopping displays have done nothing to silence those criticisms.

But this team is built to withstand a barrage of body blows and sneak out a win. The Clippers put that crunch-time comfort on full display in their four-point win over these same Grizzlies just one week ago—and when they eked out three of their four wins in last season's playoff series by a total of six points.

Even the most optimistic Clippers fan won't predict a runaway series win. Memphis is too disciplined on defense (89.3 points per game, 43.5 field-goal percentage allowed) to let any of these games get out of hand, and L.A. doesn't employ enough consistent contributors to do so anyway.

But the Clippers do have all of the ingredients to knock off the Grizzlies, even if it takes them seven games to do it. Again.

DeAndre Jordan has the bulk and quickness to bother any of Gasol or Randolph's attempts. Whatever Blake Griffin might be giving up on the defensive end, he'll more than make up for with his ability to run the floor and with his better-than-advertised post offense. Jamal Crawford can bail out the Clippers after 20-plus seconds of hounding Grizzlies' defense.

The Clippers win this series, though, because of Paul's presence. He doesn't dial his own number as often as he used to (16.9 points per game), but his 48.1 field-goal percentage suggests he'll be putting it on speed dial before Game 1 tips off at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night on ESPN.

The Staples Center won't need to free up any rafter space for another championship banner this season, Clippers' or otherwise.

But it will be hosting some second-round playoff games. And they won't be featuring the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers.