I never figured Chris Paul for a pessimist, but I guess he must be. Even though his Los Angeles Clippers hold a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies after scoring a 99-98 win at FedEx Forum on Sunday night, the All-Star point guard thinks his squad's going to have to change things up if it wants to win Wednesday night's Game 2 and head back to Staples Center with a chance to close out the Grizzlies at home.
''We don't have to play from 24, 27 down,'' Paul said. [...]
Paul said he doesn't see that kind of comeback happening twice, and he hopes the Clippers don't find themselves needing one again. He called the comeback a perfect storm where everything went right for Los Angeles in a situation where just one more Memphis basket would have meant a Grizzlies win.
''But I was telling some of the guys the next time we get down that much one of two things is going to happen,'' Paul said. ''Either they're going to take it to 35 or 40, or we're only going to come back to around eight and just be able to say it was a good fight.''
Not trying to come all the way back from between 24 and 27 points down is a bold strategy, to be sure ... but I, for one, think it might be brilliant.
Taking some of that hot fourth-quarter shooting — the Clips hit 13 of 17 from the field and 5 of 6 from 3-point land in Sunday's final frame — and translating it to the first quarter, which L.A. started Sunday by missing 11 of 16 field-goal attempts, sounds like a shrewd approach. If the Clippers can also invert their defensive performance, bringing some of the late-game intensity that (when combined with what Gilbert Arenas called offensive "stalling," according to ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz) clamped Memphis into a 5-of-19 mark over the final 12 minutes into the game's opening stanza, when the Grizzlies shot a blistering 15 of 23 on Sunday night en route to an 18-point lead heading into the second quarter, Paul might really have something there.
Jokes aside, the primary storyline of Game 2 (aside from the ones Arnovitz sharply laid out earlier Wednesday) is likely to be that everything kind of calms down. Memphis isn't likely to be 18 points better than the Clippers in the first 12 minutes; L.A. isn't likely to be 23 points better than Memphis in the final 12. The answer probably lies somewhere in-between ... like in the second and third quarters, where a total of two field goals and three points separated the two teams, with both making the other look vulnerable at some points while showing their own weak spots at others.
Memphis isn't going to hit 69 percent of its 3-pointers; L.A. isn't likely to get the same sort of dynamite performance from Nick Young (especially if, as expected, he's inserted into the starting lineup to replace the injured Caron Butler), because you basically never get the same Nick Young twice in consecutive games. Grizzlies fans hope Lionel Hollins doesn't just suddenly forget to run the game through Marc Gasol in the fourth quarter again (although it's happened before); Clippers fans hope the 17 Game 1 turnovers coughed up by the NBA's second-most careful offense were just an aberration (although it's happened before). It's not that we didn't learn anything from Game 1; it's more that we won't really know if we can trust what we learned in Game 1 until after we've seen these two teams play one another a little bit more.
On the plus side for Paul, even if the standard order of things dictates a significantly closer and more normal game than we saw at the front and back ends of Game 1, it'll wind up looking like his bold "new way" has been successful for the Clippers; he'll come out smelling like a rose just by both teams regressing to the mean, which is a pretty sweet deal for CP3. If working on the Internet has taught me anything, it's that a strat that leaves you looking correct even if it was just a bunch of nonsense to begin with is the greatest strat of all.