PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin knows what to expect from Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph when the two see each other on Sunday for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The two power forwards got into it on several occasions during last year’s grueling seven-game, first-round playoff series and again when the Clippers and Grizzlies played each other four times this season. Griffin said Randolph has made it a point of trying to get under his skin early and often, but the Clippers star isn't biting.
“That’s his whole M.O. It’s to frustrate guys,” Griffin said. “He does his thing under the basket and plays a physical game, but I like playing physical too, so we’ll see.”
Griffin, who has been known to lose his temper on the court, has been surprisingly calm in the past when Randolph has gotten in Griffin’s face, either after a hard foul or what he believes was a flop.
“I don’t think I’ve really lost my cool playing against him yet," Griffin said. "It’s not something that I go into each game and have to concentrate on. It’s one of those things where I know it’s coming and I just have to deal with it.”
Griffin had to play through a sprained left knee during the playoffs last year but said he is healthy going into the playoffs this season despite dealing with back spasms in the Clippers’ regular-season finale at Sacramento on Wednesday. He said he did not have any more spasms on Thursday or Friday and got treatment on his back both days, and he went through practice Friday without any limitations.
“It’s all right. It should be fine,” Griffin said. “It’s still a little tender, for lack of a better word, but not as bad as it was the other night. This isn’t really comparable to last year. Last year was a lot different. I’m happy to be mostly healthy going into this playoff run.”
One of the biggest differences between this year and last year for Griffin, aside from his injuries, is actually having some playoff experience. Last year was the first postseason run for Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe, and those players say they are more prepared this time around for the physicality that comes with the postseason.
“I feel like I know what to expect a lot more this year,” Griffin said. “Last year, I thought I knew what to expect but it’s a whole other ballgame. I’m looking forward to it this year. Our experience is great, and we’ve added guys who have played in huge playoff games like Lamar (Odom) and Chauncey (Billups).”
Billups was with the Clippers last year at playoff time but was relegated to the sidelines after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. He is now back on the court after playing in just 22 games this regular season while dealing with a variety of injuries.
“I’m just excited to be out here and not have to sit and watch in a suit,” Billups said. “This is great for me. Obviously, I felt I could have helped the team last year in the playoffs and this year I have that opportunity, so I’m just excited to be back out here again.”
Chris Paul, who was dealing with a strained right hip flexor and jammed middle finger last year during the playoffs, is also healthy going into the playoffs this year and thinks the Clippers and Grizzlies are now a real rivalry after facing each other in consecutive playoffs and having several tough games over the past two seasons.
“I think sometimes rivalries form after you play a team in the playoffs,” Paul said. “I definitely think so. The fact that we played them last year in a seven-game series is definitely something to talk about.”