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Clippers vs. Grizzlies Preview: A Battle of Two Top Western Conference Teams

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What year is this again? This almost seems like 2012 or 2013, when the Clippers and Grizzlies were two of the best teams in the NBA.

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

Game Information:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 12:30 PM PT

How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio

Projected Starting Lineups:

Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol

Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

Injuries:

Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons Out (Sore knee), Dillon Brooks Out (Sprained knee)

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Out (Sore knee)

The Big Picture:

After several games of 4th quarter comebacks against tough opponents, the Clippers collapsed in the 2nd half and 4th quarter against an embattled Wizards team. It was the second night of a back to back and their third game in four nights, but blowing a 24 point lead to a team that’s been as bad as the Wizards have this season is a rough look. Yes, fatigue was clearly a factor. Still, every single weakness that has plagued the Clippers thus far this season came to haunt them in one game: sloppy turnovers, inconsistent defense, and offense that stagnates in crunch time. On the whole, the Clippers have been very good this season, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have kinks to work out.

The Antagonist:

Memphis might be the only team in the NBA (sans the Sacramento Kings) that’s gotten off to a more surprising start than the Clippers. At 12-5, they lead the Western Conference 20% of the way through the season. The Grizzlies are doing so with the 3rd ranked defense in the NBA, reverting to the Grit and Grind mentality from the years of yore. The additions of Garrett Temple and Kyle Anderson have been huge on that end, bringing size and length to the perimeter. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a sensation, displaying his incredible length and defensive instincts to add another rim protection presence to Marc Gasol. Some of their numbers are a bit fluky (their rebounding is really bad, and usually bad rebounding teams aren’t great on defense), but they are a tough, tough opponent.

Notes:

  • Lineup changes: I’ve projected Avery Bradley as the starter because he started last game and Ralph Lawler said he thinks Bradley will stick as the starter. But at some point (preferably soon), Doc needs to take a long hard look at what Bradley is providing this season. His defense has been mostly “fine”, with some strong points, and some lows (Beal and Wall both torched him last game). On the offensive side of the ball, Bradley has been almost entirely a tire fire. He’s shooting 23.3% from three, doesn’t get to the free throw line, and doesn’t make plays for others. All he really does is provide some spacing when off-ball, and even that usefulness is reduced if he doesn’t make the shots. I understand that he’s coming back from injury, and is still settling into the Clippers’ rotation. However, he’s a big minus right now, and it’s just tough to watch him play extended minutes. At the very least, Pat Beverley should be playing more than Bradley, as he provides somewhat better offense, much better playmaking, and more consistent defense.
  • To go small or big: While the Grizzlies start off big with Marc Gasol and Jaren Jackson up front, they frequently go small with their bench. The Clippers could either match this with their usual lineup of Montrezl Harrell at center, or maybe try to exploit their size advantage by inserting Boban Marjanovic. I think Boban is a rough matchup against Jackson or Gasol because of their ability to stretch the floor, but his usefulness on offense and as a rim protector could offset that liability in this game.

Check out our sister blog Grizzly Bear Blues for the Grizzlies perspective.