Marcus Morris Sr. was asked in Thursday’s postgame interview about Kawhi Leonard’s potential return to the court this season. His response? An assurance that he and his team will “hold it down until he gets here”.
For a team so profoundly impacted by the recent surge in COVID cases, that statement may be even more applicable than Morris thought. Or perhaps Morris, whose offensive production the Clippers have particularly leaned on of late to weather said injury-laden storm, knows better than anyone. While on the court, Leonard is the Clippers most potent and valued weapon; on an injury list — especially one that has grown to more than nine or ten names deep at various points in this season — Leonard is just one name of many.
The good news? That list seems to be on shrinking by the day (knock on wood). Thursday’s game against the Suns saw the return of rookie Brandon Boston Jr., as well as head coach Ty Lue. Players such as Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka, and even Morris himself have found themselves in and out of league health and safety protocols. Recent reports have provided reason for optimism regarding George’s elbow injury, and it shouldn’t be long for the rest of the team to follow suit. The cavalry is coming.
While the Clippers wait for those players to return, however, they look to once again employ their “Next Man Up” mentality.
When: Saturday, January 8 at 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Grizzly Bear Blues
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Nicolas Batum, Amir Coffey, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Grizzlies: Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Killian Tillie, Jaren Jackson Jr.
Clippers: Paul George, Isaiah Hartenstein, Luke Kennard, Kawhi Leonard, Xavier Moon, Jason Preston — OUT
Grizzlies: Steven Adams, Kyle Anderson, John Konchar, Ja Morant, Yves Pons, Xavier Tillman Sr. — OUT
Saturday’s matinee game against the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies will be the next opportunity to do just that. The Grizzlies boast a top-five ranked offense, led by Ja Morant’s uncanny ability to penetrate defenses and score in the paint. Morant has taken leaps to improve his game, and his stellar play this season has earned himself comparisons to former MVP Derrick Rose as well as demanded his inclusion in top point guard debates across the league.
The Clippers defense will once again be put to the test. And without defensive anchors and bigs Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein on the floor, perimeter defenders such as Eric Bledsoe and Terance Mann will have an even bigger challenge containing Morant. Between Lue and his staff’s creativity and defensive scheming, and the players own relentless attitudes, however, expect a defensive battle tomorrow.
A win would bring the Clippers’ record back up to .500, after Thursday’s loss brought them under that mark for the first time since Nov. 3. A loss would add to the credibility of the team’s recent skid and increase pressure regarding playoff seeding. Either way, the Clippers will do what they can to hold it down.