I won’t go too much into detail on the start of this game, both because it was pretty boring and because the end was so intense. The Clippers just couldn’t get anything going on offense in the 1st quarter, getting forced into difficult midrange shots and not taking any threes. On the other end, the Clippers, normally big, were undersized against Marc Gasol and Jaren Jackson Jr., and gave up several easy looks inside. For once, the bench didn’t bring much magic, as Lou Williams looked off (he was sick), and Jackson continued to control the paint. Doc also had some questionable rotation decisions, going with a Beverley-Bradley-Lou lineup for most of the 2nd quarter, leaving Shai and Tobias on the bench.
Shai got the Clippers’ offense going to start the 2nd half, hitting a midrange shot, then getting a layup after stealing the ball from Mike Conley. His shooting was cold for the rest of the quarter, but he had four assists and was making plays off the dribble. Meanwhile, Avery Bradley got going, hitting two midrange jumpers and a layup off a cut. The Clippers moved ahead for the first time in a while on a Gallo three, that pushed their lead to five behind a Mike Scott three and free throws from Montrezl Harrell.
Doc started the 4th quarter small once more, with Bradley in for Tobias Harris. However, the referees were the story of the quarter, calling six fouls and a double technical in the first two minutes of the period after being unobtrusive for most of the game. Garrett Temple hit a couple threes, pushing the Grizzlies ahead, while the Clippers continued to miss open shots. When Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came back the offense started flowing a bit more, but he couldn’t connect on his shots, nor could anyone else. The Clippers’ defense, however, really tightened up, and the Grizzlies couldn’t get any breathing room.
A turning point seemed to be when Shai got an and-one on Conley that would have fouled him out, but was called as an offensive foul instead (a poor call, at best), followed directly by Conley hitting a three. However, the Clippers continued to battle, helped out by Conley fouling out on his own poor offensive foul call a couple minutes later. Then, Pat Beverley (came in to replace Shai) knocked the ball off Shelvin Mack’s hand, but the ball was given to the Grizzlies and wasn’t reviewed despite being in the final two minutes. Gasol hit two free throws, and the game appeared over. But it wasn’t: the Clippers finally got a couple stops, and Lou hit two shots to bring the Grizzlies’ lead down to 1 with 29 seconds left. JaMychal Green missed an open three, but so did Lou, and the Clippers had to foul Marc Gasol with 3 seconds left. After Gasol hit both free throws, Gallo got the ball, pump faked, and drew a foul on a three-point shot. Gallo nailed all three, and the game went to overtime when Montrezl Harrell got a steal on the inbounds.
The Grizzlies never looked right in overtime without Mike Conley running the show. They struggled to get any baskets, with Gasol keeping them within distance with a three and hook shot. The Clippers, on the other hand, looked freer, and their energy and activity (read: Montrezl Harrell) led to a two point lead with just 20 seconds to go. Avery Bradley was fouled, and missed one of his free throws, giving the Grizzlies a chance to tie, but redeemed himself with a tremendous block/steal on Temple’s three, and then hit the two free throws to cap the game, 112-107.
- Doc has a rough day: The Clippers ended up getting the win, so they did something right (mostly keep fighting), but Doc Rivers did not help with his rotations. As mentioned above, he kept Tobias and Shai out almost the entire 2nd quarter, a simply baffling decision considering neither was in foul trouble and the Clippers’ current lineups hadn’t been all that effective. To start the 4th, he once again went small with no Shai, Gallo, or Tobias, to disastrous results on offense. Shai came back relatively quickly, but Gallo and Tobias didn’t make it back in until the 6 minute mark of the period. With the Clippers’ struggling for offense, leaving two of their best scorers on the bench was a puzzling decision. Avery Bradley’s return seems to have thrown Doc off his rhythm a bit, and he needs to figure out more balanced rotations throughout the game.
- Avery Bradley has an inconsistent game: Bradley once again received the most minutes of any of the Clippers’ guard with 33, to mixed results. He ultimately ended up being a huge factor down the stretch, locking up Shelvin Mack after Conley fouled out, and getting the potentially game-saving strip on Garrett Temple’s three in overtime. He also finally hit some shots, going 5-8 from the field, mostly in the third quarter. However… his defense on Mike Conley for most of the game was not very good. He drew that crucial 6th foul, yes, but Conley also burned him multiple times going to the hoop, and seemed to get wherever he wanted. There were a couple times Bradley went under on screens, and Conley burned him with threes. On offense, he got shots to fall, but they were the same incredibly inefficient midrange and long twos that he’s been taking all year. He didn’t hit a three, and didn’t get to the foul line until he was intentionally fouled in overtime. This was one of his better games as a Clipper, but that’s not saying much, and I remain concerned both about his defensive effectiveness on top-tier guards, and his impact on the offensive end.
- Clippers’ defense was mostly solid: While the Grizzlies are no great shakes offensively, the Clippers did their job on that end for the most part. They rotated well, took away open threes, and did their best at contesting Gasol and Jackson with smaller players. The energy was there, and so was coordination and communication. The Clippers still need to get better in the pick and roll, as Conley and Gasol killed them there, but this was a step forward from previous games.
- Montrezl Harrell is a force: I’m running out of ways to talk about Montrezl Harrell. He had 22 points (on 7-14 shooting from the field, and 8-10 from the line), collected 11 rebounds, and added 2 blocks and a steal for good measure. He played a career high in minutes with 34:34, but remained at his usual high energy throughout, grabbing a huge offensive rebound in overtime and then firing up the crowd. He was once again the Clippers’ best player in this one. I’m not sure there are many big men playing better basketball in the NBA right now.