Where: FedExForum (no, I don’t know why it doesn’t have any spaces, either...), Memphis, TN
When: 5:00 PM PT
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley — Rodney McGruder — Paul George — Maurice Harkless — Ivica Zubac
Grizzlies: Ja Morant — Dillon Brooks — Jae Crowder — Jaren Jackson Jr. — Jonas Valanciunas
Clippers: OUT — Landry Shamet (ankle); STATUS PENDING — Kawhi Leonard, Amir Coffey (ankle)
Grizzlies: OUT — Andre Iguodala; QUESTIONABLE — Ja Morant (back soreness), Kyle Anderson (heel soreness)
The Big Picture
Well that was impressive. In assembling (arguably) their most complete performance against the ascendant Mavericks, the Clippers demonstrated that they are firmly on schedule. The Clippers have lost just once with Paul George in the fold to cover for Kawhi Leonard’s periodic absences, and have yet to lose when both are available. Landry Shamet remains on the bench, where he’ll reportedly stay for the duration of this three-game road trip the Clippers are a third through, but this starting lineup may be Doc Rivers’ preferred one anyway.
One question, of course, is which starters he’ll tab tonight. At the time of this writing, Kawhi’s status had not yet been announced, but it’s a fair guess he’ll sit because it’s a back-to-back and he usually does. My money’s on Rodney McGruder, but it could be Lou Williams, and I have been wrong before. Either way, it will break the Clippers’ four-game streak with the same starting quintet, their longest such streak since the season’s first four games. Facing a competitive but bottom-dwelling Memphis team that may be missing its young star — more on this below — the fresh(ish) Clippers — more on this as well — will work to keep another streak alive. They’ve won six straight, and even without the fun guy, are well situated to take number seven.
Memphis can’t boast as incandescent a precocious star as Dallas’s Luka Doncic, but Ja Morant has been the most sensational rookie in his own class, so far. (SO FAR. As in, the most sensational rookie to take the floor. We haven’t forgotten you, Zion.) The point guard has shown three-level scoring prowess to match passing chops and an unrelenting desire to ATTACK. Pairing him with foul-prone but multi-faceted fellow youngster Jaren Jackson Jr. gives the Grizzlies a more promising foundation more quickly than most rebuilding teams usually cobble together. With an assortment of limited but cagey veterans and low(ish)-ceiling prospects filling complementary roles, the Grizzlies are bad but not BAD bad. The record sucks but the West is hard. Catch them on the right night and these bears still have bite.
- The Cost of Aggression? Morant relishes the downhill attack, but his youthful exuberance begets anxiety for franchise and fan alike. (It reminds of a young Blake Griffin.) Morant may sit out tonight, which is a bummer because he’s fun, and it’s because he’s recovering from this Monday spill. Now, this crash looks more like the result of hard luck than indiscretion, but it’s the kind of thing Memphis fears Morant will make a habit by his own fault. That would be unfortunate for them and for the league. Here’s to a speedy return.
- As Rested As a Team Can Be? The Clippers aren’t rested, not after playing less than 24 hours before. But, relative to other back-to-backs, they should be in OK shape. Lou logged a team-high 33 minutes last night. No other Clipper eclipsed 30. Such is the benefit of winning a dawdle.
- Clippings: If you missed it, ESPN’s Zach Lowe discussed the league’s enforcement of load management, an issue at which Kawhi Leonard is the obvious crux... Also at ESPN, Ohm Youngmisuk described the transformation of Montrezl Harrell.