The Clippers got off to a sloppy start, perhaps suffering from some post-All-Star Break rust, but they managed to hold on for a key road victory against the depleted Memphis Grizzlies 112-106 at the FedEx Forum.
LA was locked in a tight battle for much of the fourth quarter, and Memphis had multiple chances to tie the game down three. However, the veteran Clippers were able to come through in key situations down the stretch.
Up three, Danilo Gallinari grabbed a critical defensive rebound and was fouled, leaving a shiner on his left eye. He hit both free throws anyway, extending the lead to five. On the ensuing possession, Patrick Beverley got an offensive rebound with about a minute and a half left to play. That led to Montrezl Harrell earning an and-one to put LA up eight and effectively close out the game.
It didn’t seem like the Clippers would need heroics down the stretch as they built a 22-point lead in the first half. Despite being sloppy with the basketball — in total, 24 turnovers led to 26 points for the Grizzlies — LA was clearly the superior team to start the game. The Clippers got into the bonus early in the second quarter, resulting in 19 free-throw attempts, which really got Harrell going. Harrell had 19 points in the first half, which is his career high for points in a half.
LA also tied an NBA season-high with 26 fast-break points in the first half, a mark previously held by the Golden State Warriors.
Nevertheless, despite the strong play of the bench, the starters gave away much of the lead when they came back into the game, and the Clippers headed into halftime only up 12, fortunate that Mike Conley missed two free throws right before the break.
The wheels continued to come off in the third quarter for LA, as Avery Bradley put together a semi-revenge game against the team that traded him two weeks ago. Bradley finished with 17 points and had a positive plus-minus for the night. The Clippers couldn’t connect from beyond the arc either, shooting 6-of-25, as the starting lineup had difficulty generating offense beyond Gallinari getting to the foul line.
As has been the case so often this year, the Clippers got their mojo back when Harrell and Lou Williams returned to the game. Williams entered the game midway through the third quarter and didn’t get a breather until the final moments, as his ability to direct the offense and take care of the ball were absolutely necessary, even against a team missing two starters and down a host of several other role players.
Williams finished with 18 points and 8 assists and Harrell had 30 points to lead all scorers. More importantly, the pair were plus-15 and plus-11, respectively, in a game that LA only won by six.
Beverley continued his astounding stretch of being the team’s best rebounder as he finished with nine boards to lead LA. JaMychal Green also had a quality defensive effort against his former team, even though most of his minutes were against essentially a G-League roster off the bench.
With the win, the Clippers move into a tie for seventh place in the Western Conference with the San Antonio Spurs, who lost earlier tonight in Toronto.