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Clippers Survive Late Grizzlies Run, Triumph 99-88

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Once again, the Clippers’ defense picked up the slack for their offense as LAC grabbed a tough road win.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, but it doesn’t always have to be.

The Clippers struggled again on offense tonight. Their inability to make open shots was somewhat masked by their inability to generate good looks, as stagnant offense often resulted in poor, last-minute attempts. The team shot under 40% from the field and under 30% from deep—it’s pretty rare to win road games with those numbers.

How did they do it? The defense stepped up again. The Grizzlies committed 19 turnovers which led to 28 Clipper points, allowing the road team to build a lead that would prove insurmountable. As the game slowed down in the fourth quarter, Memphis was able to cut into the lead, led by Mike Conley’s 30 points and 7 three-pointers made. When all was said and done, late-game craziness wasn’t enough to ever put the final result in doubt, with the Clippers maintaining a decent lead down the stretch.

The Grizzlies, for their part, played an abysmal game of basketball. They were disorganized constantly on both ends of the court, and nobody really got going offensively outside of Conley (Zach Randolph had a decent game off of the bench). Marc Gasol was just 7-18 from the field to follow up a 3-18 performance in Memphis’ last game—that’s not a good sign for a team that’s trying to fight for a good playoff seed. They’ll get an offensive boost when Chandler Parsons returns to the lineup, which should be soon.

Game notes:

  • Theft! The Clippers recorded 17 (!) steals, led by Chris Paul’s six. Before tonight, the Clippers had only ever had that many steals twice since the turn of the century, making tonight’s performance pretty significant.
  • Three-point woes: Clippers players not named Chris Paul have struggled to hit from deep this season, and tonight was no different. Redick was just 1-4 from deep, as was Austin Rivers. Jamal Crawford was 1-3, and Chris Paul himself was 1-8, ruining the good percentage he had going. The bright spots? Raymond Felton and Marreese Speights, who each made a pair of treys.
  • Wesley Johnson: After sitting in the last game while Brandon Bass got rotation minutes, WeJo took his spot back last game, playing 12 minutes and recording 2 steals, a block, and a fastbreak dunk. His impact was limited but he did his job: stretch the floor and play solid team defense as a backup stretch four.
  • No Truth: Paul Pierce was active for the first time this season after suffering an ankle injury near the end of the pre-season, but he remained on the bench. There’s been a lot of speculation regarding Doc Rivers’ rotation and where Pierce will (or won’t) fit into it, and considering Pierce’s play last season, it’s encouraging to see Doc exclude him from the rotation early tonight.
  • Tired Legs: No, the Clippers weren’t tired tonight, but their lack of execution down the stretch could cause fatigue tomorrow. The Clippers carried a large lead into halftime and extended it early in the third quarter—it would have been nice to see them put this game away and rest their starters in the fourth. Instead, Paul (33 minutes), Griffin (36), and Jordan (36) all had to play down the stretch, which could prove costly tomorrow night, when the Clippers travel to San Antonio to complete this back-to-back.