Luke Kennard posted a season-high 28 points for the Clippers, as a nine-man rotation that included two players on 10-day contracts battled the entire game and pulled ahead late to take victory against the playoff-aspiring Grizzlies.
The number of Clippers on the shelf kept growing ahead of this game, with Paul George, Reggie Jackson and Rajon Rondo getting a night off, so Ty Lue went with yet another new-look starting five for the night, with Amir Coffey getting his first start of the season, joining Kennard, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac.
The Grizzlies raced out to a 10-2 start and had all of the love in the 1st quarter, doubling up LA, the early highlight for the home team being Zubac getting a series of alley oops and run-and-gun feeds up the paint.
The Clippers found a measure of traction by the end of the 1st quarter, down 15 in a 39-24 game after 12 minutes played.
DeMarcus Cousins provided a spark to open the 2nd quarter, hitting a couple shots and drawing a charge at the other end.
Memphis continued to control the game but the Clippers pulled to within single-digits in the final minute of the 1st half. Ja Morant’s drive right before the buzzer meant LA trailed 62-53 at halftime, but considering how far ahead the Grizzlies had been, that was a solid end to the 1st half for the Clips.
The Clippers’ contributions were balanced through two quarters, with Mann, Morris, Kennard and Zubac all in double-digits in points to that point.
The patient rally continued to open the 3rd quarter, getting down to within four points a couple times and then three points down midway through the period. Coffey, who was far more aggressive in driving to the rim in this game with the Clippers needing another player keeping the defense honest, tied up the game with 3:30 to go in the 3rd quarter after hitting three free throws after a foul. On their next possession, LA took the lead, again from the charity stripe, courtesy of Mann.
The teams traded leads to finish the quarter, setting up for a cracker of a 4th quarter. Newcomer Yogi Ferrell, on a 10-day contract, grabbed a timely steal at the end of the 3rd for LA, and hit a lob for Mann to alley oop, giving the Clippers an 87-82 lead through three quarters.
LA started to really get a handle on the game from there, with Kennard hitting a 3-pointer with just over 4:00 left to play to give the Clips a seven-point lead. They wouldn’t give it up the rest of the way as Memphis’ shooting touch mostly abandoned them down the stretch.
This wasn’t a last-second win like Tuesday’s result over the Portland Trail Blazers, but given how many starters and first-line bench players were out, this is yet another impressive result for the Clippers. The team seems to know when the step up with the next man when needed, and now we have to hope they stay healthy and in this great rhythm up to and into the playoffs.
The Clippers don’t have to play a game on Thursday, but they’ll hit the road again and take on the Houston Rockets in Texas on Friday. Houston are in the basement of the Western Conference, but hey, you never know which players Lue will play on the night — and if that group will be up for the challenge. Lately, pretty much any lineup he uses finds results so we’ll see if they can keep the momentum going.