So we meet again.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies have come full circle as they open the Western Conference quarterfinals Saturday at Staples Center.
Los Angeles earned the fourth seed, a spot Memphis had last year before bowing out in seven games to the Clippers.
"They've been a pain in our butts, but we've just got to go out there and worry about us, play hard, value every possession, play in and out basketball and stick to the things that got us to this point," Memphis guard Tony Allen said of the Clippers.
The Clippers took three of four meetings with the Grizzlies in the regular season and the two teams are meeting for the second time in postseason play.
L.A. won its first Pacific Division crown with a 56-26 record, including a 32-9 ledger as the host. One of five teams (Thunder, Spurs, Nuggets, Grizzlies) to amass that many wins during the season, the Clippers have reached the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.
A 17-game winning streak and a 13-game run at home helped the Clippers establish themselves as the jewel of the Pacific. All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were the catalysts for the Clips' revival. They helped Los Angeles close out the season with a 21-9 mark.
Griffin talked about the playoff experience the Clippers have on the roster.
"Our experience as a group is great and we've added guys who have played in huge games and played in a lot of playoff games," Griffin said. "Lamar (Odom), Chauncey (Billups) was with us last year, obviously, but he was hurt. Having Matt (Barnes), Jamal (Crawford), all these guys adds to our collective wisdom, I guess."
Billups slowly recovered from a torn Achilles and other ailments this season and missed the entire playoff series with Memphis last year. He is optimistic he'll see more time in the rematch of the 2011-12 West quarters. Billups said he is ready to go Saturday.
"I'm just excited to be out there and not have to watch, sitting in a suit," Billups said Friday. "It's great for me. Obviously, I felt like I could help the team last year in the playoffs and this year I'll have that opportunity. So, I'm just excited, really, to be back at it."
Griffin, who had a team-best 18.0 ppg, was bothered by a balky back this week and should be able to go in Saturday's game. He received treatment this week, but said it's still a little tender.
"It's still a little tender, I guess, for lack of a better word, but not bad," Griffin said. "It's not as bad as the other night."
Los Angeles was one of the top defensive teams this season and finished fourth in the NBA in opponents' scoring (94.6 ppg).
Memphis is in the playoffs for a third straight year and for the sixth time in franchise history. Defense was the key for Memphis, which held opposing teams to an NBA-low 89.3 ppg. One of the main goals for the Grizzlies this playoff series is containing Paul.
"We basically just want just corral him and try to force him to make tough shots," Grizzlies guard Tony Allen said of Paul. "We know he's an All-Star, and we're definitely going to have to have our antennas up when he's on the floor."
The Grizzlies scored just 93.4 ppg, but were 23-1 when reaching the 100-point mark.
It was a year of firsts for the Grizzlies, who set franchise records for overall wins (56) overall winning percentage (.683), home wins (32), road wins (24) and road winning percentage (.585).
Lionel Hollins' group ended the season with nine wins in 11 tries.
Memphis rode double-double machine Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to where it is today and even traded leading scorer Rudy Gay in the middle of the season to NBA purgatory, Toronto.
Randolph led the NBA in total offensive rebounds with 310, while Gasol was first on the team in blocked shots (1.74 bpg). Conley was tops in the league in total steals (174).