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Clippers-Grizzlies Preview: Ready or Not

Chris Paul’s return may be doubtful, but with the Grizzlies in town, a rough game is a certainty.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Story:

The skid has been snapped but the level of competition stiffens. It’s one thing for the All-Star-less Clippers to take down a young and disjointed Suns team. It’s altogether a different thing to overcome the disciplined Grizzlies, even one that was waxed last night by a thrusting Nick Young on the purple-and-gold STAPLES Center floor. As of the time of this writing, Chris Paul is listed as doubtful to appear, but the Clippers finally found a winning formula without him while still coping with Blake Griffin’s longer-term absence. That formula was a balanced offensive attack with a heavy dose of JJ Redick from outside. Repeat that and the Clippers have a good chance to go two-for-2017.

The Antagonist:

The Grizzlies survived their own brush with the fateful injury bug, stunning the league with a 7-2 mark during Mike Conley’s November/December absence. With the silky point guard back in the fold and do-it-all big man Marc Gasol adding the three-pointer to an already unfair arsenal, the Grizzlies are busy proving that reports of their demise may have been greatly premature. Memphis sits in seventh in a tight pack of Western teams all within one game of one another, and if Chandler Parsons can work his way back into game shape and something close to peak efficiency, the Grizzlies will be in position to do some playoff damage. And like so many Grizzlies teams, they don’t even have to win to inflict their damage.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics: The Clippers earn 28.5% of their points on three-pointers, good for 10th in the league. Not much surprise there. What is surprising is that the typically staid grit-n-grinders from Memphis are hot on LA’s heels in 13th. What did the Grizzlies rank last season? 27th. And the season before? 29th. And the season before that? Dead last.
  • The Schedule: The Clippers make a quick trip north to Sacramento Friday before returning to LA for a luxurious five-game homestand.
  • Backups Coming Up Big: Bargain bin summer signings Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass have stepped into Blake Griffin’s sizable void. Since Blake’s last game on December 18th, the two veterans have combined for better than 20 points per game in around 34 minutes of playing time. Bass is converting on two-thirds of his field goal attempts, while Speights is splashing half of his three-pointers.
  • Chandler Coming Around: The Grizzlies success this season is impressive, more so when you consider that big-money summer splash Chandler Parsons has appeared in just 12 games, perhaps none at full strength. Check out this Sam Amick piece on his recovery and his importance to Memphis’ postseason hopes. After observing Parsons’ visible lack of mobility in last night’s loss to the Lakers, this writer is pessimistic.
  • For more on the state of the Grizzlies, be sure to read Robert Flom’s Five Questions With Grizzly Bear Blues.
  • For the Grizzlies’ point of view, head over to Grizzly Bear Blues.