Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 12:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Grizzlies: Ja Morant – Dillon Brooks – Jae Crowder – Jaren Jackson Jr. – Jonas Valanciunas
Clippers: Landry Shamet – Lou Williams – Kawhi Leonard – Moe Harkless – Ivica Zubac
Grizzlies: Jae Crowder Questionable (Ankle)
Clippers: Patrick Beverley Out (Wrist), Paul George Doubtful (Hamstring)
The Big Picture
The Clippers survived a poor first-half performance against the woeful Pistons to improve to 25-11. Unfortunately, they sustained another injury, as Paul George injured his hamstring and didn’t play for most of the second half. The Clippers just can’t seem to get healthy, as every time they approach full health another player goes down. George hasn’t even been ruled out of today’s game, so his injury presumably isn’t going to keep him out very long, but still. Every game that goes by without a full roster is a game with a certain degree of chemistry lost, and while the Clippers have held up well so far, that lack of cohesion could hold them back when games really matter.
The Grizzlies aren’t particularly good, but they’re quite fun and have shown flashes of being a dangerous team. Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, and Brandon Clark form one of the better young cores in the NBA, with Jackson especially demonstrating potential to be a dominant NBA player in years to come. The rest of the roster isn’t quite there yet, as it mostly consists of less promising youngsters and non-game-changing veterans like Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill. Still, when Jackson and Morant are feeling themselves, the Grizzlies look better than their record, and the Clippers can’t take them lightly.
Adjusted Starting Lineup: With Beverley out and George likely to join him on the inactive list, the Clippers will probably roll out a new starting lineup. Landry Shamet is nearly a lock to be the replacement for Beverley, as he has been the past few games, but the other new starter has yet to be determined. Going purely by position Rodney McGruder might be the easiest replacement, but other options are JaMychal Green (moving Moe Harkless and Kawhi Leonard down a position), Lou Williams, or even Montrezl Harrell. I’d guess Lou will start alongside Shamet, providing the greatest amount of shot creation and scoring in the starting unit. That unit might be a little light defensively, but Zubac, Harkless, and Kawhi should be enough to make up for the Lou-Shamet combo.
Defending JJJ: Jaren Jackson Jr. presents quite a challenge for defenders due to his potent shooting capabilities. He’s taking over 6 threes a game this season while launching them at a high rate, and Clippers’ defenders simply can’t leave him alone out there. To that end, the Clippers will probably place smaller defenders on Jaren to better defend him on the perimeter and live with him posting up or trying to attack inside. Ivica Zubac is the only player on the roster capable of dealing with Jonas Valanciunas, which means there could be some Trez-Zu minutes tonight, especially since the Grizzlies frequently play big themselves. Zu himself hasn’t guarded many stretch bigs, as the Clippers prefer to keep him in the paint, and he’ll probably remain on Valanciunas for as long as he’s in the game.
Shamet Must Shoot: Paul George is by far the Clippers most prolific three-point shooter, while Patrick Beverley is fifth on the Clips in threes attempted per game. Without those two, the Clippers will face a paucity of three-point shooters – or at least shooters who take more than a couple threes per game. To that end, the remaining marksmen they do have – Shamet, Kawhi, Lou, and JaMychal Green – must make up the difference by taking more threes than usual. This is especially true of Shamet, who was the Clippers designated shooter last year but who’s faltered slightly in that role this season due to the presence of George. Shamet will probably receive well over 30 minutes in this one, and with that amount of playing time should come at least eight or nine three point attempts. A big game from Shamet would go a long way towards making up for the losses of George and Beverley.
Check out the Q&A I did with Grizzly Bear Blues, and go over to their site to see my answers to their questions. Comment on the game below!