Clippers tame wounded Grizzlies, 101-81

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers followed up their dreadful performance in Atlanta Wednesday night with an equally dreadful first half in Memphis. And then they came out and beat up on the Grizzlies to post an easy win.

The Los Angeles Clippers played as badly as they have all season in their first game of this road trip in Atlanta on Wednesday night. So it seemed reasonable to expect that they might play better in Memphis; at the very least they would surely have plenty of motivation against the Grizzlies, their arch nemeses who eliminated them in the playoffs last season and have beaten them five games in a row.

However, during the first half, not only did the Clippers not improve on their performance from Atlanta the night before -- they were actually quite a bit worse. They couldn't shoot, they turned the ball over, they were just completely out of sorts.

The only consolation was that Memphis was just as bad. The first half ended with the Grizzlies ahead 42-40, and other than Mike Conley, I really can't name anyone else who looked especially like an NBA player.

The Clippers of course were playing without starting shooting guard J.J. Redick as well as key reserve Matt Barnes, while the Grizzlies were without All Star center Marc Gasol and starting shooting guard Tony Allen, the two best individual defenders on a team with a defense-first identity. So maybe the teams had excuses for being less then their best, but surely not this bad?

Things only got worse for the Grizz. In addition to the missing Gasol and Allen:

  • Zach Randolph was playing his first game in about a week after having an ingrown toenail and was not the same player who has tormented the Clippers in recent games;
  • Tayshaun Prince looked to be very limited by either injuries or just plain age;
  • Ed Davis turned an ankle in the first half and did not return;
  • And any Memphis player with a job description of "shooter" clearly did not do their job tonight.

As things were spiraling out of control for Memphis, the Clippers suddenly found their stroke. With four minutes gone in the third quarter, the Clippers were 2-9 from three point range, making them a combined 6-28 from deep since leaving Los Angeles on Monday at the time, and they still trailed by three, 47-44. They proceeded to make their next nine three pointers without a miss, including three each for reserves Reggie Bullock and Antawn Jamison. The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 57-34 from that point turning the evening into a laugher, and giving Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a mini-vacation in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Memphis would have been shooting great, had the basket simply been about a foot closer to their shooters. Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Jon Leuer -- they all missed wide open jump shots, really, REALLY badly. My friend's dad always said of missed shots -- back of the rim, OK, front of the rim, bad. Well, the Grizzlies were lucky if they actually made it to the front of the rim.

This game will improve the Clippers defensive efficiency rating significantly, and yes they played pretty well on defense, but they were abetted greatly by a dreadful Memphis performance. It's a win over the Grizzlies, and we will ALWAYS happily take that, but let's hope the team doesn't wait until the second half to start playing in Cleveland on Saturday.

The Clippers finished with eight of the ten players who appeared in the game scoring between seven and 15 points. Seeing the shots falling, especially for Bullock and Jamison, is particularly good news. Bullock has looked confident shooting the ball all season, but without great results until recently. If he can be a reliable three point threat (and it seems like he can) then he can be that 3D small forward that every good team seems to have. As for Jamison and NBA archetypes, the Clippers have been desperately seeking a stretch four for many years now, ever since drafting Griffin at least. Jamison is far from a perfect player at this stage of his career, but if he can hit threes, he serves a VERY useful purpose.

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