MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have been unbeatable at home lately and are preparing to open the postseason on their own court for the first time in team history when they host the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Grizzlies are riding a franchise-best 11-game winning streak at home. They went 26-7 at the FedExForum in this shortened season, but they do not plan on resting on that success in their first-round Western Conference series against the Clippers.
"We still have got to come out and play," Memphis forward Zach Randolph said Saturday.
"We can't just think because we've got home-court advantage it's going to be easy. It's a basketball game. We've got to come out focused with the understanding that we have our fans behind us, which is going to give us more energy and we're going to feed off of that. But we've still got to be ready and have a defensive mindset."
The Clippers won two of the three games between these teams in the regular season with each winning at home.
The Grizzlies' defensive challenges in this best-of-seven series will be guarding the Clippers' pick-and-roll offense. They want to try to control the pace of the game and keep the Clippers' big men from living up to their Lob City reputation by throwing down more thunderous dunks.
The key is containing All-Star guard Chris Paul, the man orchestrating of the Los Angeles performance. Only Boston's Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash of Phoenix had more assists than Paul (9.1) per game this season. Paul didn't practice Friday with a strained left groin but did work some Saturday. He is expected to play Sunday night.
"He tries to dictate the game by getting everybody involved," Memphis guard Tony Allen said. "When it's time for him to be Chris Paul, he definitely turns up the volume.
"You just try to contain him. Make things tough for him in that pick-and-roll. We know that's his bread and butter, and we have to be alert."
Indications Saturday were that Randolph, who missed 37 games with a knee injury, might start Sunday night. He was used primarily off the bench since his return in March, but did start the season finale against Orlando.
"It feels good to get out there with the first group," Randolph said. "From the start, you feel the energy, getting the vibe going."
For the Clippers, they are where the Grizzlies were this time last year — young and the team expected to be eliminated in the first round. They didn't help that perception by finishing the season by losing three of their last four.
"People don't expect us to win, and I think we realize that" Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. "Hopefully, we play with that chip on our shoulder a little bit."
Memphis' defense led by Allen and guard Mike Conley, who finished second in steals behind Paul, could be the key in this series. But Memphis coach Lionel Hollins doesn't see a need to try to ratchet the intensity up from the regular season.
"We've got to go out and play just as hard as we have in most of the 66 games we just finished," Hollins said. "I think too much is made of 'we've got to be at a different intensity level.'
"It's going to be a high intensity level simply because both teams will be on the same level of rest and of hopes and dreams."
The way the Grizzlies play defense should be just fine in the postseason. They averaged an NBA-best 9.5 steals per game on their home court, 1.7 more than when on the road. They also blocked 5.23 shots per game.
"They try to muck everything up," Clippers guard Randy Foye said of the Grizzlies. "They try to make everything chaotic. They try and pressure you and make you do things you don't want to do. The biggest thing for us is stay poised, work together and understand if we play our game our chances are good."
Griffin said steals help the Grizzlies get their offense and everything else going.
"It gets the crowd into the game, it gets everything going for them," Griffin said. "For us to take care of the ball is very important."
Paul, who led the NBA himself with 2.53 steals a game, said the Grizzlies have plenty of weapons. But he thinks the Clippers need worry about themselves and not Memphis.
"We're not that bad either," Paul said.