Clippers renew rivalry with Grizzlies

ATLANTA -- Doc Rivers wasn’t with the Los Angeles Clippers last season when they lost four straight games in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies.

That minor detail, however, has never stopped him from saying "we" when talking about last season’s team and last season’s shortcomings in the playoffs.

"I own them. They're mine now. I adopted them," Rivers said. "The minute I said I'm the Clippers' coach, any problems that we had are my problems."

One of the biggest problems facing the Clippers last season, and this season, are the Memphis Grizzlies. Not only did they defeat the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs last season, but they beat them in the first meeting this season at Staples Center.

When Rivers was asked about the Clippers traveling to Memphis for the first time since last season’s loss in Game 6 of the first round, he shook his head.

"Forget last year," Rivers said. "Last year shouldn’t matter to us anymore. They beat us at our place. That’s what should matter. If we’re thinking about last year, we’re already wrong. We should think that they walked into our building and beat our butts. We should come in and want to play. That doesn’t mean you win, but we should come in ready to play."

Coming in ready to play has been easier said than done for the Clippers this season. They’ve pointed to apathy and a lack of energy after many of their losses. Neither should be a factor in Memphis. Then again, after losing two straight games, the Clippers seemed more interested in getting a win, regardless of the opponent, and not suffering their first three-game losing streak of the season.

"[Last season] has absolutely nothing to do with it," Chris Paul said. "We just want to win, regardless of who it is or where it is."

Blake Griffin said he wasn’t even aware Thursday would be his first time back in Memphis since last season’s playoff loss until he was asked about it Wednesday night.

"We’ve played there so many times," Griffin said. "That hadn’t even crossed my mind at all. It’s an important game for us, especially after we’ve dropped two games in a row."

As much as the Clippers didn’t want to put more emphasis on Thursday’s game against Memphis -- choosing to treat it as one of seven games on their current 13-day road trip -- there’s no question it’s different. Not only is it the only game on the trip against a team above .500, it’s the only game on the trip against a team they’ve faced in the playoffs the past two seasons.

While many try to shove the Lakers-Clippers rivalry down their throats, most Clippers players believe their true rival is the Grizzlies after their back-to-back battles in the postseason.

"[Byron] Scott used to tell me rivalries form when you play teams in the playoffs," Paul said earlier this season.

"I would say Memphis more than the Lakers," DeAndre Jordan said before the season when asked about rivalries. "If anybody, I would say Memphis."

The Clippers were not in a nostalgic mood before heading to Memphis, but there’s no question that walking onto the court at the FedEx Forum for the first time since getting embarrassed in Game 6 of last season’s first round will provide a different motivation than they had Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks or will have Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I guess I’m different," Paul said. "I feel like the other team is always coming for our heads. It’s the same thing every game."

But Memphis isn't just another game on the schedule. It’s the team the Clippers will be measured against and a team the Clippers must find a way to get past after losing their past five meetings. It is a rivalry that has been built over two grueling postseason battles and a matchup the Clippers know they will have to ultimately win if they want to accomplish their goals this season.