The Back Story (The Grizzlies lead the season series, 1-0).
|Grizzlies 107, Clippers 91
The Big Picture:
Even though the Clippers stood pat at the trade deadline, a lot has changed since their 16-point November drubbing at the paws of the Grizzlies. At that time, the Clippers looked disjointed and were in the early race for biggest NBA disappointment after a summer of heavy expectation-building. Now, they sit in the fifth seed, just one half game out of third. Star forward Blake Griffin is still sitting, but the team has won four straight against Sacramento and the three teams from Texas, which is no easy feat. There's no guarantee that reinforcements will come -- STAPLES Center has not been the bought-out free agent destination de rigueur that it was last season -- but that becomes a fading concern with each victory.
Have you noticed that the Grit-N-Grinders are still second-best in the West? By record, they are 3 1/2 games better than the Clippers, but there's some magic in the wins there. By point differential, the Grizzlies are just fourth among Western Conference teams. Instead of being above the fray -- teams three through six are separated by a single game -- it's more reasonable to say that they are firmly engaged in a scrum for second-best behind the dominating Golden State Warriors. Stats aside, this team remains an intimidating matchup. Big boys Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph bring their punishing inside game to a Clipper court that will be without like-minded banger Griffin. At their best, Memphis can bottle up even the best offenses, as they did in holding the Hawks to 88 points last week. Tonight, they'll have to contend with the very best.
- Comparison of key metrics. The Grizzlies are a little better offensively (10th) and a little worse defensively (tied for 5th) than I expected them to be. Were the Clippers not without their top scorer, tonight would be strength on strength, and not just literally. They enter tonight still tops in the NBA in offensive efficiency.
- The Schedule. It's a home-and-home, with a detour through Houston in the middle. The Clippers visit the Rockets on Wednesday night before going to Memphis to continue their rivalry with the Grizzlies.
- Staying afloat. No one would have begrudged the Clippers a few weeks of struggle without their star big man, but they have held together surprisingly well. Since Blake underwent his surgery, the Clippers have the third-most efficient offense in the NBA, and the sixth-best net rating. One wholly unexpected change they've made? They're actually playing faster, ranking second in pace trailing only the aptly-named Rockets over that same period.
- Paint play. The Grizzlies get 47% of their points in the paint, tied for the league lead, no surprise when you consider their personnel: two mammoth men in the middle and a bevy of attacking guards. The Clippers have been very good at walling off said paint, allowing fewer points inside on a per game basis than all but four other teams. Something must give tonight.
- Austin Rivers. Is he quieting the naysayers? (Yes, I'm firmly including myself among said naysayers.) The younger Rivers scored a career-high 28 points against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, sinking five of nine three-point attempts. More importantly, he nabbed three steals. He's fitting in.
- Connections. Zach Randolph played the second half of the 2008-2009 season with the Clippers before being traded to make way for Blake... Recent bench addition Dahntay Jones played his first four professional seasons with the Grizzlies... Grizzies' guard Courtney Lee played his rookie season with Hedo Turkoglu on the Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic... Both Tony Allen and Jeff Green played in Boston for then Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers -- Glen Davis was on some of those teams, as well... Rookie Grizzly guard Jordan Adams played two years at UCLA... JaMychal Green, playing for Memphis on a second 10-day contract, played for the Clippers during the 2013 summer league, signed with the team that September, but was cut a few days later... Memphis Assistant Coach Bob Thornton played his college ball at UC Irvine -- go Anteaters... Marc Gasol, of course, was drafted and then traded by the Lakers, without ever having played for them... If there's any more, put 'em in the comments.
- Wikipedia entry. "Grizzly (also known as Killer Grizzly) is a 1976 horror film directed by William Girdler, about a 15-foot man-eating Grizzly bear that terrorizes a National Forest." Unsurprisingly, this was a shameless Jaws ripoff, only with more plaid. Both Charlie Sheen and George Clooney had roles inGrizzly II: The Predator, which was shot but not released.