A third-quarter run. A magnificent performance from Ja Morant. A clutch three to seal the win. That was not how the Clippers had hoped their home opener would play out. Unfortunately, after 48 minutes of basketball, Paul George and the Clippers found themselves with an 0-2 start to the season and their first loss at home.
After the game, George said that he’s “happy that we played hard,” but that effort was not enough. “We got to win games,” he said.
And win games they did. The continued leadership of George, the emergence and re-emergence of Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, and a few other teammates of theirs, and a subsequent seven-game win streak later, the Clippers sit tied for fourth in the Western Conference, with a solid 9-5 record. It’s a different team than the one that the Grizzlies saw in L.A. And on Friday, the Clippers get a chance to prove that to Memphis, in Memphis.
When: Thursday, November 18 at 5 p.m. PT
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Grizzly Bear Blues
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Amir Coffey, Ivica Zubac
Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
Clippers: Terance Mann — QUESTIONABLE; Nicholas Batum — DOUBTFUL; Serge Ibaka, Keon Johnson, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Jason Preston, Justise Winslow — OUT
Grizzlies: Santi Aldama, Jarrett Culver, Sam Merrill — OUT
The Grizzlies, however, are not to be underestimated. Despite one of the toughest schedules so far (including games against the Clippers, Lakers, Heat, Nuggets, and Suns), they’ve maintained a .500 record. Ja Morant, averaging 25.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists (as well as a top-10 PER of 25.47), has solidified himself as one of the brightest rising stars in the league. Jaren Jackson Jr. has been productive as always, flashing glimpses of the talent that got him drafted so high (including the aforementioned game-clinching 3-pointer in their last bout with the Clippers). And Dillon Brooks, if he’s healthy, has proven himself to be a dangerous offensive weapon, on and off the ball.
Luckily, the Clippers are ready for them. George’s stellar play is here to stay. Bledsoe has made his impact felt attacking the rim on one end of the floor and grabbing steals on the other. Jackson is back. Their defense is tied for first in the halfcourt and ranks at second overall. Even without Terance Mann, Serge Ibaka, Marcus Morris, and Nicolas Batum, the Clippers have proven that they are still ready for anything. When one player is injured, another is ready to come in to the game at a moment’s notice and drop 13 (a la Brandon Boston Boston Jr).
The Clippers embodied the “Next man up” mentality. They’re going to play hard. The only thing now is to go out there and win this game.