Crippled Clippers host Grizzlies in Game 6

This is only the fifth time since the franchise moved to the West Coast (first San Diego) that the Los Angeles Clippers are even in the playoffs, and they have advanced past the first round just once, in 2006.

They will make it two with a win Friday against Memphis, while the Grizzlies can host Game 7 on Sunday with a victory.

The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, who have been off since sweeping the Utah Jazz on Monday, await the winner.

Betting story lines

Memphis stayed alive by dominating the Clippers in the post in Wednesday’s 92-80 victory, the most lopsided result of what has been an extremely close series. Actually the Grizz should already be in the conference semifinals as they have outscored the Clippers overall. Memphis’ two wins have come rather convincingly (the other by seven) and their three losses have come by a combined four points, with one in overtime.

Grizzlies big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were the difference in Game 5. Through the first four games of the series, Gasol and Randolph combined to average just 22.8 points, but on Wednesday they totaled 42 points on 56 percent shooting from the field. Gasol, mostly a non-factor in L.A.’s past two wins, scored 12 points in the first quarter and Randolph hit his first six shots in scoring 15 points while grabbing five rebounds as Memphis led 36-22 at the end of the first quarter (while shooting 71 percent). The Grizzlies led 57-42 at halftime, eventually by as many as 24, and the result never was really in doubt. Overall the Grizzlies outscored Los Angeles 48-26 in the paint and had a 42-35 edge in rebounds.

Clips point guard Chris Paul has been by far the best player in this series, but he was fairly well controlled in Game 5. Paul finished with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals but had just five points and one assist in the first half — he jammed the middle finger on his shooting

hand in the first quarter. The Grizzlies chose to mix up defenders rather than double-team Paul.

The big news heading into Game 6 is the health of Paul and Blake Griffin, who had 15 points and 11 boards in Game 5. Paul strained his right hip flexor in the game and Griffin injured his left knee. Both Griffin and Paul missed some time in the fourth quarter but returned to the game – however, they both looked visibly uncomfortable. Paul, who in the fourth quarter clearly was hobbling and holding his midsection, said after Game 5 he would play in Game 6. He missed six games during the regular season and the Clippers were 3-3 in his absence. An injured groin kept him out of the Clippers’ regular season finale, a loss to New York that cost L.A. the No. 4 seed over Memphis (and won’t that be huge if there’s a Game 7).

Griffin’s injury looked worse; it happened when he drove the lane on Gasol in the third quarter, drawing a foul before landing awkwardly on his left leg, which flexed backwards. The Clippers called the injury a hyperflexed knee before diagnosing it as a sprain. Griffin was to have an MRI on the knee Thursday in Los Angeles. It should be noted that it was a left knee injury that forced Griffin to miss what would have been his rookie season. He played in every regular season game last season and this season (153 straight, including playoffs). Griffin said the knee stiffened up on the court after he returned Wednesday, but the pain felt different than the left patella fracture that kept him out for his rookie year.

Key trends

The Clippers opened as 2.5-point favorites with the total at 182.5 on NBA odds. L.A. was 17- 16 ATS at home this season (1-1 this series) and 14-18-1 on the ‘over/under’ (1-1 this series). Memphis was 13-20 ATS on the road this season and 10-23 on the O/U.

Memphis is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games and 1-5 ATS in its past six games after a win. The under is 9-2 in the Grizzlies’ past 11 road games. The Clippers are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 games following an ATS loss. But overall the Clippers have covered just two of their past nine games. The home team (and favorite) is 5-2-1 ATS in the past eight meetings in this series.

Predictions

The Clippers already are saying Friday is their Game 7, so if they lose it you almost have to expect a Memphis win back home Sunday. In the second half of their home playoff games in this series, the Grizzlies have been up by as many as 27 points in Game 1, 13 points in Game 2 and 24 points in Game 5.

The good news for L.A. is that Memphis was 0-2 in the regular season against the Clippers at Staples Center and also lost Games 3 and 4 of this series there. But the Grizzlies are experienced in must-win games thanks to last year’s solid postseason run, while the vast majority of the Clippers aren’t. Paul has only won a single playoff series in his career and obviously this is the first postseason for Griffin.

I am writing this before Griffin’s MRI has come back, but I like Memphis to cover if not win regardless – for sure to win if Griffin sits Friday. Also take the under.

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