Four of the five best records in the league belong to teams in the Western Conference. Two of those teams meet Monday night at the FedEx Forum as the 24-11 Memphis Grizzlies host the 28-9 Los Angeles Clippers. (7:00 pm Central, Sports South, FSN-Prime Ticket) Grizzlies fans will remember that the Clippers eliminated Memphis last year in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in a hard fought 7 game series.
The Grizzlies are coming off a 104-83 loss Saturday night at the Dallas Mavericks. The loss snapped a 4 game winning streak for the Grizzlies that included a 101-98 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs Friday night. Not to take anything away from the 15-23 Mavericks, but it appeared the Grizzzlies were the victim of the classic sandwich game with such a huge win over the team ahead of them in the standings, and this game against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. The Grizzlies are 2.5 games behind the Spurs in the Southwest Division.
The Clippers lead the Pacific Division by 4.5 games and are a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the league. The Clippers lost at home Saturday to the Orlando Magic 104-101. The loss snapped a 3 game winning streak for the Clippers and also ended a 13 game home winning streak for LA. The Clippers have gone 3-3 in January after a 17 game winning streak that included an undefeated December.
In last year’s playoff series, the Clippers jumped out to a 3-1 series lead despite knee injuries that hampered stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Grizzlies would fight back to force game 7 but would end up losing 82-72 in that game. The series featured 4 games decided by 4 points or less. The Grizzlies became the first team in NBA history to lose game 1 and 7 at home in a seven game series. The two teams opened this season Halloween night in Los Angeles with the Clippers winning 101-92. The teams will play twice more on March 13 in LA and April 13 in Memphis.
The Clippers are coached by Vinny Del Negro. Los Angeles is outscoring teams 102-93 this season. The Clippers are #7 in scoring and #4 in points allowed. LA is #4 in shooting from the field at 47.7% and 35% from 3 point range. The Clippers are near the bottom of the league in free throw shooting at 71.3% from the line. LA averages 41.8 rebounds per game and gives up 40.2 per game. The Clippers are #4 in rebounds allowed. Los Angeles opponents are shooting 43.3% from the field and 36.1% from 3 point range. The Clippers are #4 in opponents’ field goal percentage. Los Angeles averages 23.9 assists, 10.7 steals, 6.3 blocks, and 14.4 turnovers per game.
Forward Blake Griffin averages 17.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Point guard Chris Paul averages 16.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.7 assists, and 2.6 steals per game. He is probable with a knee injury. Guard Jamal Crawford averages 16.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He has a very good shot of winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Forward Matt Barnes averages 11 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1 block a game. Forward Caron Butler averages 9.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. Center DeAndre Jordan averages 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Point guard Eric Bledsoe averages 8.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Guard Willie Green, Forward Lamar Odom, and Center Ronny Turiaf make up the rest of the rotation. Guard Chauncey Billups (foot) and forward Trey Thompkins (knee) are both out indefinitely. Forward Grant Hill played his first game of the season Saturday against Orlando after missing the first 2 1/2 months of the season with a knee injury.
The Grizzlies are coached by Lionel Hollins. Memphis is outscoring teams 95-90 this season. They are second in the league in points allowed and are #24 in scoring. The Grizzlies are shooting 43.8% from the field and 34.8% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #22 in field goal percentage and #19 in three point shooting. Memphis is #2 in the league in free throw shooting at 79.9% from the line. The Grizzlies average 42.8 rebounds per game and give up 38.9. Memphis is #1 in rebounds allowed and #13 in rebounding. Grizzlies’ opponents are shooting 43.4% from the field and 35.6% from 3 point range. Memphis is in the top 13 in the league in both categories. The Grizzlies average 21.1 assists, 9.4 steals, 5.3 blocks and 14.8 turnovers a game.
Small forward Rudy Gay averages 17.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals a game. He will miss tonight’s game for personal reasons. Forward Zach Randolph averages 16.6 points, 11.7 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.4 assists per game. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding. Both Gay and Randolph have been the subject of trade rumors despite the great start of the Grizzlies. Center Marc Gasol averages 13.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1 steal and 1.9 blocks per game to lead the team. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 13.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.4 steals a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Tony Allen starts at shooting guard and is one of the best defenders in the league. Allen averages 8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Forward Marreese Speights, point guard Jerryd Bayless, forward Quincy Pondexter, Guard Wayne Ellington and forward Darrell Arthur make up the rest of the rotation. Pondexter is out indefinitely with a grade 2 MCL sprain. Look for Speights or Arthur to start in place of Gay tonight.
This will a difficult game for the Grizzlies to win without Gay. The Grizzlies will have to rely on their defense and rebounding. Honestly, though that has been the formula for success for Memphis all season. The Clippers have lost 2 straight road games by 14 and 21 points respectively, and Memphis is one of the best home teams in the league. This starts a stretch for the Clippers with 15 of the next 19 on the road. I think LA wins but the gritty Grizzlies keep it close at home.