Both teams are coming into this game riding concurrent two-game losing streaks. For the Los Angeles Clippers, they’ve lost two games to the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets – the Western Conference finalists from last season. Not to be outdone, the Memphis Grizzlies have lost two in a row themselves. While their competition in those two losses doesn’t rival what the Clippers went up against, they still played on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz. There’s nothing easy about either one of those games. As each team rolls into this game, they each are experiencing their own pains.
In both of their losses, the Clippers had a shot to tie or take the lead with under 30 seconds to go. That doesn’t mean they’re terrible in late game situations. It’s just the way the cookie has crumbled for them. In their last game, the team was without All-Star point guard Chris Paul and still gave the Rockets a run for their money despite the lack of coaching acumen from Doc Rivers. If anything can be taken from that game directly, it’s that the team struggled for a large portion of it and still had chances to win or tie.
As it currently stands, the Clippers lead the NBA in both field goal percentage inside 8 feet and field goal percentage from 16-to-24 feet. You can thank superstar Blake Griffin for that. He’s been a livewire of epic proportions. From inside 8 feet, Griffin is now shooting an astounding 74.5 percent on 55 field goal attempts. That alone makes him as dangerous a weapon as there is in the league. Add in his 52.3 percent shooting on 44 attempts from 16-to-24 feet, and you have the ultimate scoring machine from inside the arc. Griffin is the engine driving this team right now.
If Griffin is the engine, then J.J. Redick is the transmission that’s able to shift into the necessary gear at a moment’s notice. So far this season, Redick is enjoying a 50-40-90 start and has affected so many things for the offense. His ability to move off the ball and gravitate defenders towards him opens up heaps of space for everyone involved. Whether some want to admit it or not, Redick might be the team’s most important offensive player just because he allows the other players to roam freer than they would without him there.
With Chris Paul listed as doubtful for this game, it might be up to the Griffin-Redick tandem to deliver more than ever against a Memphis team desperate for a win against anyone. To counteract what the Clippers will do, the Grizzlies will attempt to silence them with their hard-nosed defense that has been everything but that to start this season. It’ll be up to the complimentary players to show up and help the team out as Memphis’ defense chokes down on sets that feature a Griffin or Redick theme. That means Lance Stephenson, DeAndre Jordan, and Austin Rivers must all show up on their best behavior and with their best play.
To say that the Grizzlies have looked like cubs this season would be an understatement. They’ve lost games by 30, 50, 19, and 10 points. They’re struggling, but still capable of putting together a quality 48 minutes against even the toughest of competition. Their leading scorer on a per game basis this season is Mike Conley at just 13.4 points per game. The problem is that he’s shooting under 40 percent from the field. So, too, is Marc Gasol. Of their five leading scorers this season, four are shooting under the 40 percent mark and can’t even space the floor adequately enough to function as a unit.
As solid as their starting lineup has been based on Net Rating (+1.0), they’ve had quite a hard time generating offense and keeping the team afloat before a woeful bench undermines everything they’ve built. Memphis is in shambles right now. Even the once-steady Zach Randolph has turned in some putrid performances. The team has attempted the third most shots from 16-to-24 feet this season, but has converted on just 39.5 percent of them. By comparison, the Clippers have shot 49.2 percent on those shots in one fewer attempt. Memphis, once one of the great teams at finishing inside, is now a staggering 29th in field goal percentage inside 8 feet – just 0.1 percent better than the Indiana Pacers.
As bad as Memphis has been, and as horribly as they have shot threes this season, they still present a unique challenge for Los Angeles. During the past, it didn’t matter how poorly the Grizzlies were playing prior to a game against the Clippers; all that mattered was that Memphis had a style that could suffocate what the Clippers wanted to do. Despite ranking dead last in field goal percentage, second-to-last in three-point percentage, dead last in Effective Field Goal Percentage, dead last in True Shooting Percentage, and playing at a snail’s pace, the Grizzlies will be with the Clippers every step of the way on Monday night. That’s just their way.
At times this season, Memphis has seemed slow, out of shape, and unsure of what they are anymore. The Clippers, to their credit, are the better team despite some of their own issues – i.e. rotational problems, Chris Paul’s injury, and Lance Stephenson not playing critical fourth quarter minutes. Despite all of that, the Clippers are a 4-2 team that is just a couple bounces of the ball away from being 6-0 and the jewel of the league’s eye in the first two weeks of the season. But, you are what your record says you are. Records and competition and numbers say that the Clippers are a really good team. Those same avenues say that the Grizzlies are the opposite of that. We shall see on Monday night.
One of the interesting storylines in this game, outside of the always entertaining Randolph-Griffin matchup, is the return of Matt Barnes to STAPLES Center for the first time since the Clippers traded him to the Charlotte Hornets back in mid-June. During his tenure in Los Angeles, the controversial small forward averaged 10.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists on 44.9 percent from the field, 35.0 percent from three, and 75.2 percent from the free throw line. He represented Clippers basketball for all three years he donned the jersey. It will be nice to see him again.
Playing without your elite-level point guard is always a tough thing. It’s even tougher when facing a defensive-minded team that can stifle anyone on any night. The pressure will be on Austin Rivers, Pablo Prigioni, and possibly even Lance Stephenson and Jamal Crawford. They’ll need to show up and run the offense when given the reigns to do so. This will be a tough game between two heavyweights. With the bulletin board material thrown their way thanks to the official Clippers twitter account, expect Memphis to come out fired up and disrespected. It’ll take a total team effort to down the Grizzlies, or else the Clippers will be the ones with their foot caught in the bear trap.
|2015/2016 NBA Regular Season|
|November 9, 2015 | 7:30 PM (PDT)|
|STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)|
|Prime Ticket, FS Southwest, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Win-Loss Breakdown (2015-2016 Regular Season)|
|Mike Conley||PG||Austin Rivers|
|Courtney Lee||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Tony Allen||SF||Lance Stephenson|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Marc Gasol||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|Advanced Stats (2015-2016 Regular Season)|
|96.25(28th of 30)||Pace||102.78 (7th of 30)|
|94.1 (29th of 30)||ORtg||105.4 (3rd of 30)|
|106.0 (26th of 30)||DRtg||99.3 (17th of 30)|
|Jarell Martin (Out) Foot||Chris Paul (Doubtful) Groin|