Grizzlies-Clippers Preview

The Los Angeles Clippers won their first division title last
season, but further celebrations ended immediately at the hands of
the Memphis Grizzlies.

The high-scoring Clippers have a chance to exact a measure of
revenge Monday night when they face the Grizzlies for the first
time since being ousted in the opening round of the playoffs.

Los Angeles (7-3) set a franchise record with 56 wins and eased
to a Pacific Division championship by nine games over second-place
Golden State. The Clippers also appeared on their way to advancing
in the playoffs after winning the first two games against Memphis,
but went on to lose the next four.

A right ankle injury to Blake Griffin played a part in the
postseason exit, while the Grizzlies reached the Western Conference
finals.

The injury limited the All-Star forward to 13 total points over
the last two games of the series, including nine in 13:56 off the
bench in a 118-105 loss in Game 6.

Griffin continues to be a force for the Clippers, averaging a
team-leading 22.9 points this season. His impact is felt beyond the
scoreboard, as he’s tied for fourth in the league with 10.4
rebounds per game over his first four seasons.

That’s reason enough for Los Angeles to be concerned when he
hurt his left ankle in Saturday’s 110-103 win over Brooklyn.
Griffin left the game in the third quarter, but returned 2 1/2
minutes later to finish with 30 points and 12 boards.

“I just came down normal and felt something in the back of my
ankle,” he said. “It scared me not knowing exactly what it was.
It’s better than it was but not normal. I can put full weight on it
without unbearable pain.”

While Griffin should be ready to face Memphis (5-5), star guard
Chris Paul isn’t prepared to be without him.

“I need him like none other,” said Paul, who had 12 points, 13
assists – six to Griffin – and seven rebounds against the Nets.

Paul averaged 22.8 points and 6.3 assists against the Grizzlies
in last season’s playoffs, but he was ejected late in Game 6 for
crashing into Marc Gasol on a missed free throw.

Griffin also found himself in trouble with officials, wrestling
Zach Randolph to the court after a basket in Game 6 to earn the
fourth double-foul of the series for the duo.

They’ll likely find themselves contending under the basket
again, as the Clippers attempt to improve to 6-0 at home for the
first time since 2006-07.

Randolph, though, has totaled 50 points and 21 rebounds and shot
20 of 30 from the floor to help Memphis win the first two of this
four-game road trip – its first back-to-back victories this
season.

He scored 22 on 9-of-12 shooting in Sunday’s 97-86 win at
Sacramento.

“Zach is playing well right now,” said guard Mike Conley, who
had 19 points and nine assists against the Kings. “When he’s got it
going like that and is in a zone, we try to get him the ball.”

That certainly was the case in the playoffs against the
Clippers. Randolph averaged 24.8 points on 57.4 percent from the
field over the final four games after totaling 26 points in the
first two.

Randolph and Conley each had 23 points in Game 6.

This time, however, Griffin and Paul may have some help from
J.J. Redick, who is averaging 18.2 points at home. He had 26 on 9
of 14 from the field – 5 of 7 from behind the arc – against the
Nets.