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Game Preview: Clippers Take on Surprisingly Tough Grizzlies

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The Clippers are a playoff team while the Grizzlies are not, but the Clips can’t take the Griz lightly — they’re playing good basketball right now.

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

Game Information:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 7:30 PM PT

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

Projected Starting Lineups:

Grizzlies: Delon Wright - Tyler Dorsey - Justin Holiday - Bruno Caboclo - Jonas Valanciunas

Clippers: Pat Beverley - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - Landry Shamet - Danilo Gallinari - Ivica Zubac

Injuries:

Grizzlies: Mike Conley Out (Ankle), Avery Bradley Out (Shin), Joakim Noah Out (Knee), CJ Miles Out (Foot), Jaren Jackson Jr. Out (Quad), Kyle Anderson Out (Shoulder), Dillon Brooks Out (Toe)

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Out (Knee), Danilo Gallinari Probable (Ankle)

Notes:

Banged up Grizzlies: The Grizzlies have been surprisingly competitive of late, going 5-5 in their last 10 games despite missing a litany of players due to injury and trading a franchise cornerstone, Marc Gasol, at the deadline. Still, the team the Clippers are facing is even more injured than usual, as Mike Conley, the Grizzlies’ star point guard, will miss the game due to an ankle injury. Joining him on the sidelines is rejuvenated center Joakim Noah, who caused some problems for the Clips in their last matchup. Even with those guys, this should have been a Clippers win. Without them, the Clips need to win this one, and preferably in a blowout so they can keep minutes low for their key players. The Grizzlies won’t go down without a fight, however: most of their players are young, and have nothing to lose.

Surging Shai: I talk about Shai a lot, but he’s worth talking about. The Clippers’ prized rookie is having by far the best month of his young career, putting up 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game in the month of March. Doc Rivers is showing more trust in Shai than ever, as he’s regularly closing games and playing big minutes. Shai’s hitting his threes (59.4% on a still admittedly low volume), but most importantly, he’s showing aggression is getting to the rim and scoring or making plays for others. His ability to finish at the basket with either hand is remarkable for a player his age, and he’s already making fairly advanced reads out of the pick and roll and in transition. That’s not even taking into account his much improved defense. Look for Shai to have another big game against the weary Griz.

Containing Jonas: With Conley out, the Grizzlies’ one true devastating threat offensively is big man Jonas Valanciunas. After steadily improving for years as a Raptor, Jonas has been unleashed for the Griz, averaging 20.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in just over 28 minutes. He’s an efficient scorer around the basket, has a soft touch from midrange, and is a reasonably capable playmaker (2.2 assists per contest) for others. He’s also a force around the rim on defense, and is more than capable of keeping the Grizzlies afloat single-handedly. Ivica Zubac will need to really step up to counter Jonas — this should be a good test for him, as one of Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela, or Rudy Gobert seems likely for his postseason matchup.

Getting rest: Doc Rivers said after last game that he’s not planning on resting any more of his players down the stretch of the season — he wants the rotations to be fully formed and running in good stead entering the playoffs. Still, getting rest in games remains important, and against a team as wounded as the Grizzlies, a blowout and low minute totals for veterans would be huge. Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, and Pat Beverley in particular all need to be kept in quality condition for the postseason, as do younger players who have been banged up in recent days, such as Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell. Hopefully the Clippers can put the Griz away early and get their youngsters some playing time at home.

This will also serve as the game thread, so comment below! And be sure to check out Grizzly Bear Blues for the opposing perspective.