NBA playoffs: LA counting on experience

2013-04-20T00:00:00Z NBA playoffs: LA counting on experienceThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - In a season of firsts for their franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers are opening the playoffs with a familiar foe.

Only this time, they own home-court advantage against the Memphis Grizzlies. Both teams finished the regular season with identical 56-26 records and tied for fourth in the Western Conference.

Game 1 is tonight at Staples Center.

A year ago, the Clippers opened at Memphis and fell into a 27-point hole. They rallied to tie an NBA record for largest deficit overcome in the fourth quarter and won by one point.

"That game was crazy," Chauncey Billups, who was injured and watched from the bench, said Friday. "Safe to say that probably won't happen again."

Then, the Clippers won a Game 7 for the first time in franchise history in Memphis to advance.

"The biggest thing we have this year is more experience," said all-star guard Chris Paul, who helped lead the team to the first division title in franchise history.

Billups is back in the lineup after missing chunks of the season with various injuries, most recently a strained groin.

Coach Vinny Del Negro said Billups will be limited to 20-some minutes.

"I'm excited to be out here and not have to watch in a suit," he said. "We really grew up a lot during that playoff series last year."

Especially All-Star Blake Griffin, who got 11 playoff games under his belt last season, including when the Clippers were swept by San Antonio.

Griffin practiced Friday and received treatment on his back for the spasms that affected him in the regular-season finale.

"It's still a little tender, but it's not as bad as the other night," he said.

His back locked up while shooting before the game at Sacramento on Wednesday, but he was able to make two big plays at the end of the Clippers' four-point win.

Griffin will need to be at his best to handle All-Star counterpart Zach Randolph, known as an agitator.

"That's his whole MO is to frustrate guys, do his thing under the basket," Griffin said. "I like to play physical, too. I don't think I've lost my cool going against him yet."

Playoff openers today

• Celtics at Knicks: noon on Channel 9

• Warriors at Nuggets: 2:30 p.m. on ESPN

• Bulls at Nets: 5 p.m. on ESPN

• Grizzlies at Clippers: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

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