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Clippers-Grizzlies preview: A Familiar Foe

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The Clippers meet their old rival just five days after a closely-contested loss.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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37-21

41-15
February 27, 2015, 5:00 PM
FedEx Forum
Fox Sports West, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
13-11 East 16-5
24-10 West 25-10
23-8 Home 23-5
14-13 Road 18-10
15-17 .500+ 19-11
22-4 .500- 22-4
4-6 L10 7-3
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Mike Conley
J.J. Redick SG Courtney Lee
Matt Barnes SF Jeff Green
Spencer Hawes PF Zach Randolph
DeAndre Jordan C Marc Gasol
Advanced Stats
96.8 (10th of 30) Pace 94.3 (26th of 30)
110.2 (1st of 30) ORtg 104.2 (11th of 30)
104.1 (18th of 30) DRtg 100.0 (5th of 30)
Injuries/Other
Blake Griffin (elbow) out

Vince Carter (foot) out

The Back Story (The Grizzlies lead the season series, 2-0).

Date Venue Final Recap Box
11/23/14 Memphis Grizzlies 107, Clippers 91 Recap Box
02/23/15 Los Angeles Grizzlies 90, Clippers 87 Recap Box
02/27/15 Memphis Tonight

04/11/15 Los Angeles


The Big Picture:

Didn't we just do this? Didn't I just do this? It's not a home-and-home, but it's close. The Clippers lost a grinder on Monday night, and now they have to try again in the Grindhouse. They may be coming off a loss against a Rockets team they had beaten six times straight, but there's just cause for optimism. The Clippers could have won on Monday, despite playing left-handed. They played a Grizzlies-style game and came within one late turnover of taking the lead. Memphis did play a spectacular third quarter to wrest control of the game, but if the Clippers had converted a few more of their open first-half looks, the game may have been out of reach by then anyway. These two teams are closely matched, even with Blake Griffin sitting on the bench. Expect another nail-biter.

The Antagonist:

These guys play rough. Some of you may call it dirty. Whatever you name it, it's physical, and it's effective. When the refs call a loose game like they did on Monday night, the Grizzlies become very difficult to beat. They push and pull and bump and [I'm tired of typing grind] and just get under an opponent's skin. There are no secrets with this team. When they have the ball, they'll try to get to the hoop. With recent additions Jeff Green and Courtney Lee spacing the floor, offensive triumvirate Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol are mandated to attack the basket and take no prisoners. When your team has the ball, they make you work for every look, especially the ones you want. The 2015 Grizzlies are only the most talented and successful basketball team the city of Memphis been blessed to call its own.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of key metrics. I wrote on Monday that the Grizzlies get 47% of their points in the paint, which was tied for the league lead. It didn't really seem like it when watching the game, but the Clippers did hold the Grizzlies to less than that.
  • The Schedule. Road back-to-back coming up. First, a Sunday matinee in Chicago against another newly Rose-less Bulls team. Then, a Monday night matchup in Minnesota against the ascendant Andrew Wiggins.
  • Hold on to the ball. One common thread runs through each of the last two losses: the Clippers lost the turnover battle. As would be expected of any Chris Paul-led team, this is a sure-handed squad, and while there were careless stretches in Houston, they were pretty careful against Memphis. The problem has been at the other end of the court -- the Clippers forced just 19 total turnovers between the past two games. Given Doc's preference to have his Griffin-less team push the pace, they'll have to grab some steals to do it.
  • Hawes for Griffin. Disclaimer: I am NOT arguing that Spencer Hawes is better than Blake Griffin, or should start over him ever, even if the Clippers meet the Grizzlies in the playoffs. The following paragraph is entered into the Clips Nation record under the protective legislation of the "I'm just sayin'" Internet Act of 2001. OK? OK. It is interesting how having Hawes in against the Grizzlies allowed Doc to play with the defensive matchups, the most intriguing of which is having DeAndre Jordan on Zach Randolph. Blake has always been game to battle Z-Bo in the paint, but DeAndre has the strength and length to really stymie the Memphis big man. As with everything in life, upsides come attached to downsides, and having Hawes and not DeAndre guard Gasol is a downside. But it's not a catastrophic downside like having Blake guard the much larger and longer Gasol. Perhaps a reason why the Clippers were able to hang tough in a seemingly poor matchup.
  • The bench. Do we have to talk about this again? Didn't Austin Rivers just have a career game against Sacramento a few days ago? Where did the good vibes go? The season-long open sore that Doc Rivers calls his reserve unit has been a gaping wound the past two games, turning defense-first wings Tony Allen and Corey Brewer into Pippenesque fast break scoring monsters. Sure, Griffin's absence has the obvious trickle-down effect of pushing Hawes into the starting five and forcing the Clippers to field a short frontcourt of Big Baby and Turkoglu. But, most critically, the bench seems to be the root of the Clips' turnover issues this week. Against Memphis and Houston, the Clippers bench unit has nine turnovers. Their opponent's respective benches have five. The Rivers-Crawford backcourt needs to find some chemistry and fast.
  • Connections. Covered these Monday, with some additions credited to your comments...  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 and J.J. Redick 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 is the name of four unrelated fictional characters from the Marvel Comics universe." One was an old west villain who wore a steel-lined Grizzly bear suit. One used a laser pistol, because comic books. Sounds like one of Stan Lee's lazier phases.