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Preview: Clips look to grind out victory against Grizzlies

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The Clippers are set to host the rival Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

The first couple of weeks of the Clippers’ season is probably a pretty good indicator of the way the rest of the campaign is going to go. The Clips should have no problem blowing past the dregs of the league, and we’ve already seen them thump also-rans like the Mavericks, Suns and Lakers. The league’s elite, as expected, will give LAC some fits. The Warriors, the only truly top-tier side the Clippers have seen so far, crushed them.

Realistically, the Clippers are likely among the third tier of teams in the Western Conference. If you consider Golden State to be in a tier of their own, you would probably consider the Rockets and a full-strength Spurs squad to occupy the next tier down. Oklahoma City may get into the second tier before the season ends, too. The Clips, meanwhile, will likely fall into tier No. 3 alongside teams like Portland, Denver, Memphis, etc.

Because LAC seems to take 49th priority among the gaggle of teams that call Staples Center home, they’re about to embark on their first weekend of back-to-back 12:30 starts with a couple of similar clubs in Memphis and Miami coming to town.

Both the Clippers and Grizzlies underwent some serious personnel changes during the offseason, but they’ve both come out of the gates performing pretty well. Memphis is likely one of the teams LAC will be battling with in the bottom-half of the Western Conference playoff picture, so this should be a fun early-season test. It’s also a matchup that could wind up meaning something once March and April roll around.

Following this mini homestand against Dallas, Memphis and Miami, the Clippers will head out on the road for a three-game midwestern road trip to take on San Antonio, OKC and New Orleans. They’ll then come back to L.A. to take on the Sixers before another five-game road swing that takes them through Thanksgiving.

The Grizz

While the roster looks different from the peak “Grit-n-Grind” days of the last few years, the general idea when it comes to Grizzlies basketball remains the same. Even without Zach Randolph and Tony Allen still around to muck things up, Memphis wants to grind the game to a halt and methodically go about their business on both ends of the floor. Through their first eight games, Memphis ranks in the bottom-five in pace, top-five in defensive rating and near bottom-10 in offensive rating. Sounds about right.

The 2016-17 Grizzlies’ season was absolutely crushed by injuries, and they have already had to deal with their fair share of physical knocks so far this year. JaMychal Green and Ben McLemore are out for a while, and Marc Gasol (ankle) is in question for Saturday’s tilt. Mike Conley also missed the Grizzlies’ loss to the Magic on Wednesday with an Achilles injury, but he wasn’t listed on Memphis’ injury report prior to this game against the Clippers.

Mario Chalmers started in Conley’s place against Orlando earlier in the week. Chalmers didn’t put forth a particularly encouraging performance in his last start, and a few late-game turnovers essentially lost the game for Memphis against Orlando. With Conley back, the former Heat guard will presumably revert to his role as the backup.

Old nemesis Tyreke Evans got some serious run while Conley was sidelined, and he’s going to be a crucial cog off the bench for the Grizz this season. Evans, whom Clipper fans are quite familiar with thanks to his days with the Kings, has quietly gotten off to a very strong start in his first campaign with the Grizz. The former Rookie of the Year is averaging 15.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in about 25 minutes per game off the bench.

In the last game without Conley, Evans put up a season-high 32 points in 34 minutes in a reserve role. Look for him to operate as a secondary ball-handler for Memphis throughout the game, even with Conley reportedly ready to return to the floor.

The Fancy Table

Tidbits

  • DeAndre Jordan has struggled to contain Marc Gasol in the past. The Grizzlies’ All-Star center has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals in 28 career regular season head-to-head meetings. Gasol has also shot nearly 53 percent from the field and better than 42 percent from three-point land.
  • On Halloween, the Grizzlies exercised the fourth-year option on young forward Jarell Martin. This comes despite the fact that the Grizzlies told Martin that they were planning to cut him during the preseason. Expect Martin to start against the Clippers on Saturday at the power forward spot.
  • Blake Griffin went 2-for-4 from three-point range in Wednesday’s win over the Mavericks. Griffin has now canned at least a pair of triples in all seven of the Clips’ games so far this season, which is easily the longest such stretch of his career.
  • Austin Rivers has shot 45.2 percent from deep through the first seven games after setting a career-best mark of 37.1 percent last season.
  • The Clippers took three of the four meetings with the Grizzlies last season.