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Grizzlies begin playoff quest at home against Paul, Clippers

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The Sports Network
4/29/2012 10:49:58 AM
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(Sports Network) - The talented Memphis Grizzlies will open the postseason on their home floor for the first time in franchise history when they host the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.

That figures to be big for the Grizzlies, who won their first-ever playoff series last season by upsetting top-seeded San Antonio.

Memphis earned the No. 4 seed on the final day of the regular season and home- court advantage for the first time thanks in large part to a franchise-record 11-game winning streak as the host. Overall, the Grizz went an impressive 26-7 at FedExForum in this lockout-shortened season.

The Grizzlies sent the Spurs packing in six games during the opening round of last season's playoffs before bowing out in seven games against the Thunder in the semifinals.

Memphis finished second to the Spurs in the Southwest Division this time around and were led by Rudy Gay and All-Star Marc Gasol. O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley and Tony Allen also spurred the Grizz to the postseason, while Marreese Speights turned his game around when Philadelphia traded him to Memphis.

Speights played well at the power forward position and gave the Grizzlies life in the paint as Zach Randolph missed 37 games while nursing a partial MCL tear in his knee.

With Randolph back in action the Grizzlies should be able to enjoy a solid first-round playoff series. Randolph, a former All-Star, was a big reason for the team's success a year ago and may or may not come off the bench this time around for head coach Lionel Hollins. He was used primarily off the bench since his return in March, but did start the season finale against Orlando.

Hollins gave his perspective on the postseason after his team clinched a spot a few weeks ago.

"We didn't want to be a one-and-done kind of group," Hollins said. "We had a lot of success last year and we just wanted to make sure we got back."

The Clippers, meanwhile, had every intention of being in this position after landing coveted point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets in the offseason to team up with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chauncey Billups. The deadly foursome turned into a three-headed monster when Billups went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, leaving much of the scoring up to Paul and Griffin.

The fifth-seeded Clippers knocked off Western Conference power Oklahoma City earlier this month at home to punch their ticket to the postseason. Paul was excited about the achievement, but also understood the fact that it will be a grind when the playoffs commence.

"It doesn't matter who you are playing against," Paul told the LA Times after beating the Thunder. "But it is a good win for us. We wanted to clinch a playoff berth, especially here at home in front of our home crowd. But we've still got a lot of work to do."

Having secured just their sixth playoff berth since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1984, the Clippers almost unseated the rival Lakers for their first Pacific Division title, but Kobe Bryant and Co. were too much in the end. The Clippers hope the dynamic duo of Paul and Griffin can get some much-needed assistance during the "second season" in order to leave a lasting impression on the postseason field.

"We're not satisfied with just getting into the playoffs," Griffin said. "We want more than that."

Memphis lost two of three meetings against the Clippers in the regular season and four of five overall. Memphis has lost three straight, nine of 11 and 10 of its last 13 games as the visitor in this series.

These two teams have never met in the postseason before.

Zach Randolph (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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