The Back Story:
First meeting of the season. The Grizzlies won the season series last year 2-1.
More Notes Before the Tip
In case you haven't heard, Clipper-summer-flirtation Allen Iverson is not with the Grizzlies tonight, attending to 'personal matters' in Atlanta. Lionel Hollins addressed the media before the game with little more info than that, and as another reporter said to me "He didn't really do a very good job of selling it." In other words, no one's really buying it - not around here anyway. Three games into his career as a Grizzlies reserve, he has to deal with 'personal matters.' Suspicious.
The Grizzlies are one of four teams in the league allowing their opponents to shoot better than 50% on the young season. The worst team on FG defense is the Warriors, last night's victim. The Grizz are 28th out of 30 teams, allowing their opponents to shoot 50.6%. For what it's worth, the Clippers are actually doing well by that metric - holding their opponents to 43.4%, 9th best in the league.
On the other side, the Clippers are shooting over 48% on the season, fourth best in the league. So the signs point towards a good shooting night for LA in this one. By the way, if you're wondering how a team that is shooting 5% points better than their opponents is 2-4, the short answer is turnovers, with some rebouding mixed in.
The Grizzlies have four guys scoring well, even without Iverson. Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are each averaging over 20, O.J. Mayo is right there at 19.7 and Marc Gasol is at 16.3 and 58% shooting. So scoring isn't their problem, at least not while their starters are out there. They just can't stop anybody.
First Quarter Notes:
Gasol is big... but he looks thinner than last season. He seemed to still have some baby fat last year. He looks leaner and meaner now.
Zach is just a different guy. He must have lost 30 pounds at least. It's actually pretty freaky. He barely looks like the same player.
Marcus opens the game with two misses at the line. That's becoming a problem.
Bad start. Grizzlies 3 for 3, Clippers 0 for 2 from three, 0 for 2 fom the line in their first three trips. Good idea to go to Kaman on the next trip. But despite one Kaman bucket, it's 10-2 Grizzlies start, 4 points and an assist for Z-bo, 4 points for Gay, and the Clippers take an early timeout. The Clippers, even in their losses this season, have tended to start well. So this is a little disappointing to come out so flat.
Kaman is working extra hard to get down the court and get deep position on Gasol. I don't know if it's an advantage they think they can exploit from the scouting report, or if he's just running hard tonight.
Rasual Butler is having some mixed results. He's having trouble staying with Rudy Gay, who's got 14 in the first ten minutes, but he's rebounding well, and has made a couple of shots off the dribble, both deep in the shot clock. Marcus on the other hand is having touble on both ends. As we suspected, he can't really defend Z-bo, who exploited his reluctance to stray too far from the rim on the first Memphis possession, nor can he do anything on offense. His shot attempts have not been close, and he's 1 for 4 from the line.
The Clippers trimmed the lead to 3 at 17-15, and it seemed like things were back under control. But despite generating any shot they wanted over the next several possessions, an 8-1 the lead stretched back out to 25-16 because they just kept missing the shots. But a nice run to close the quarter has the situation back under control. All things considered, given how many good shots the Clippers just missed, you can't be too upset being down only six - if they hadn't missed four free throws, it would obviously be closer. But they've got to figure out how to stop Gay.
At 1:38 of the first, we get the matchup we want - DeAndre Jordan versus Hasheem Thabeet. Except that Jordan is defending Z-Bo (I did not see that coming). Thabeet picks up a foul trying to defend Kaman 28 seconds after entering the game. No real surprise there. Then he drops a perfect pass the next trip. Have I mentioned that I'm not a fan of this guy?
Second Quarter Notes
The Clippers rotations are just slow tonight. MEM's first two second quarter buckets are wide open jumpers where basically no one got close to the shooter.
The Clippers start the second quarter with DJ and Craig Smith as the bigs, facing Thabeet and Z-bo on the other side. But contrary to what you might expect, MDsr has DJ on Z-bo. Thabeeet's such a non-factor offensively, all you have to do is box him out, which Smith has the strength to do.
In theory, the Clippers' bench should be stronger - maybe much stronger - than Memphis'. And three minutes into the quarter, Telfair, DJ, Smith and Thornton (and lone starter Gordon) have cut the lead to two. Lionel Hollins comes back immediately with Gasol and Gay and Conley and Mayo - these guys are going to play huge minutes tonight.
The Grizzlies switch to a zone after briefly losing the lead and the Clippers look a little confused against it the first couple of trips. I can't remember anyone playing zone this season, so it will be interesting to see how they adjust.
Craig Smith has a nice quarter, unexpectedly making two longer jumpers, one of them a three pointer. But they continue to struggle stopping Rudy Gay, who starts adding to his point total the instant he checks back in.
With three minutes to go in the quarter, Eric Gordon has 4 shots in 16 minutes of play. That's not acceptable for the team's most efficient scorer. Why are they not getting him any shots? Is O.J. Mayo blanketing him? Or have the Clippers just forgotten him? I don't know, but I'm giong to start watching the matchup.
Late in the quarter, it apparently dawns on the Clippers that Baron Davis has about 40 pounds on Mike Conley, and that the kid can't actually handle Baron in the post. Baron scores 8 of the Clippers last 10 points of the quarter, to get the lead back down to a manageable five.
But this game will not end well if (a) the Clippers allow Rudy Gay to torch them for forty (he has 21 at the half) and (b) the Clippers can't get Eric Gordon involved. Gay, it must be said, has been incredible. He is making moves that are just crazy - and making everything he shoots (he's 8 for 10). So I don't think it's really a question of bad defense from my perspective. Gay has been nigh unstoppable.
Third Quarter Notes:
The Clippers quickly cut the lead to two, and have several chances to tie the game before Baron finally gets the trick done at 7:37. They seem to have taken my advice and gotten Eric Gordon involved - he had four shots in the first half, and he has five in less than five minutes of the third. If the refs would give him a little love, he would have converted four of them - twice he went hard to the rim and major contact yielded no whistle. But the great news about the start of the quarter is that the defense is significantly better. Although the Clippers are having trouble scoring, they are getting plenty of stops, and getting good looks on offense. It bodes much better for the final result at this point.
Baron picks up his fourth foul with 5:49 left in the quarter and immediately looks to the bench to give them the "I'm OK, leave me in" wave. Does that ever work? It didn't for Baron, as Bassy hops up.
The Grizzlies enter the bonus with 5:43 left in the quarter, which is terrible news given how much more difficult it's been for them to score this quarter. You just don't want a struggling team to get freebies for five minutes.
Rasual Butler can't buy a three. He's had multiple good looks in this game and hasn't made a single one. He's 0 for 5. A couple of makes would have been nice, but I'm not telling you anything you didn't know.
Rudy Gay is getting the superstar treatment from the refs tonight. If he takes the ball to the rim, he gets the whistle. It will be nice when EJ gets that.
It's been a strange game. Seems like the Clippers get it back together, and take the lead, but then they immediately give up six straight or so to fall back behind. Turnovers continue to be a problem - the total is relatively low tonight, but a bad stretch in the third gives the Grizz a nice lead again.
An aside - the weak opposition in November will hopefully help the record, but it's not helping the Clippers' bottom line. Tonight's attendance is 15,399.
Despite Gay having 31 through three quarters (his career high is 35 against the Clippers of course), the Clippers tie the game after three quarters.
Third quarter score: 82-82.
Fourth Quarter Notes:
Unlike the third quarter, the Clippers start the fourth showing absolutely no ability to get a stop - this mostly against Memphis reserves. So although the Clippers start the quarter scoring relatively well, they once again fall behind, due to their utter uselessness on defense. Memphis scores 11 points in the first 3:15 of the quarter.
Baron picks up his fifth foul and has to sit down again three minutes into the quarter. Telfair has played pretty well, but Baron's post up was a major weapon at the close of the first half, and it would be nice to have that as an option.
Midway through the fourth, the Grizzlies are 8 for 10. Somehow the Clippers are only behind by 2 despite that fact. The Clippers are also getting killed on the boards in the game. But in a timely spurt, the Clippers regain the lead at 100-99, ensuring a Lawler's Law based victory, right? Actually, some stops and some rebounds may be necessary, Law or no Law.
Remember how Rasual Butler was 0 for 5 from three and I said some makes would be nice? Well, his two fourth quarter threes are huge, the second one stretching the thin Clippers lead to 4, their biggest of the game, with 3:12 left.
Craig Smith has perhaps been the MVP for the Clippers tonight (despite the chants during Kaman's free throws). Surprisingly, his defense has been terrific, as it was against Nowitzki in the Dallas game. But he's also got 18 points, second highest on the team. MDsr goes offense-defense with Camby and Smith in the final minutes, but I'm not sure I don't want Smith out there on both ends.
The Clippers rebounding difficulties continue down the stretch, keeping the Grizzlies close on second chances, despite the renewed vigor of the LA defense. It should be noted that Memphis is one of the top rebounding teams in the league - Gasol and Randolph are both monsters, and Gay is strong from the three spot.
But as it seemed would be the case, the Clippers slowly take control of the game in the final minutes. Unfortunately, by missing half of their last 8 free throws, they leave the outcome in doubt until the last second, but they come away with the 113-110.