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Clippers vs. Grizzlies Preview: LA starts the home stretch against an old rival with a new look

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The Clippers start the final third of the season against a significantly less fearsome Grizzlies team.

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

Game Information:

Where: FedExForum, Memphis, TN

When: 5:00 p.m. PST

How to watch/listen: FOX Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio

Projected Starting Lineups:

LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Avery Bradley, Justin Holiday, Ivan Rabb, Jaren Jackson Jr.

Injuries:

Clippers: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (left knee soreness) — OUT, Wilson Chandler (right quadriceps strain) — OUT

Grizzlies: Jonas Valanciunas (personal reasons) — OUT, Kyle Anderson (right shoulder) — OUT, Joakim Noah (right heel soreness) — PROBABLE, Tyler Dorsey (left knee soreness) — PROBABLE, Jevon Carter (right knee soreness) — PROBABLE

The Big Picture:

When the Clippers and Grizzlies last met in December, both were near the top of the Western Conference playoff chase. Now, Memphis has cashed in its chips for next season, or possibly beyond, while LA is firmly in the mix for one of the final seeds in the postseason. The Clippers are 2-1 since completing deadline deals that brought in four new rotation players, including one trade with the Grizzlies that sent out Avery Bradley for JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple. The new starting lineup with Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac in place of Bradley and Marcin Gortat has been an upgrade, albeit in a limited sample. Doc Rivers was happy to have some practice time after the All-Star break to help integrate his new players, even though they were off to a pretty good start.

“They’re getting there,” Rivers said after the team’s Feb. 13 win over Phoenix. “We still don’t have a lot in, but what we have in they’re starting to run and starting to execute, so that was good to see.”

Even though LA is on the road again, this is a game the Clippers should win, especially to bolster their playoff credentials. Memphis might be LA’s primary rival from the 2010s, but the decade is winding to a close, and these aren’t the same Grizzlies.

The Antagonist:

As recently as late November, when Memphis came to Los Angeles on Black Friday to face the Clippers, there was a little extra buzz in the arena for the familiar foes, particularly Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Conley is still gritting and grinding, but Gasol was sent to Toronto at the trade deadline for Delon Wright and Jonas Valanciunas, though the Lithuanian big man will not be playing against the Clippers. With only Conley in tow, the Grizzlies are no longer a fearsome opponent. They have lost six of their last nine games, and 14 of their last 18. Memphis is in lottery mode, and this team doesn’t have the juice to compete with LA as presently constructed.

What to watch for:

  • This will be Bradley’s first game against the Clippers as a member of the Grizzlies. Bradley was reportedly unhappy with this offensive role in LA, but has averaged 14.3 field-goal attempts and 4.3 assists per game in Memphis compared to 8.6 and 2.0, respectively, for the Clippers. Expect Patrick Beverley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to provide strong defensive pressure on both their former teammate and Conley, who are the scoring engines for the Grizzlies.
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. was productive in the teams’ first two meetings to the tune of 33 total points and 13 total rebounds. He faces a different challenge this time around in Ivica Zubac, who is a more mobile center than either of his predecessors. Jackson likes to pop out for jumpers, which Zubac is more capable of defending, and he isn’t a great rebounder, which won’t exploit the Clippers’ weakness on the glass.
  • Lou Williams, despite his general ridiculousness this season, hasn’t had the most efficient games against Memphis due to the Grizzlies’ big guards. Temple now suits up for his side, though, and Shelvin Mack is gone, but the defensive principles (and the long arms of Delon Wright) remain, so it will be interesting to see if Williams can get his shot going to start the final stretch of the season.

Check out Grizzly Bear Blues for the opposing perspective, and enjoy the game!