After taking down Rockets, Clippers face Grizzlies next
The streaky Los Angeles Clippers will seek to continue one of their positive runs when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
The Clippers posted one of the biggest surprises of the young NBA season Friday night when they stunned the Houston Rockets 128-118 on the road.
Houston had entered the game with the best record in the Western Conference.
The win was the second in a row for the Clippers, who had lost their previous three games. In their last 24 games, they have nine-, four- and three-game losing streaks interspersed with two three-game winning streaks and the current two-game run.
A team that got off to a faster start than the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the Pacific Division when it opened 5-2, the Clippers, currently without Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari, had slumped to 11-18 before beating Phoenix and Houston this week.
“We don’t even look to see who’s playing,” said Austin Rivers, who took up the slack with a career-high 36 points against the Rockets. “We just go play. I don’t even know who’s playing until we do the lineup. That’s just the situation that it is.”
One of the Clippers’ losses in their fast start was at home to the Grizzlies in early November. But the clubs that renew acquaintances Saturday have little in common with those teams.
The Grizzlies, who like the Clippers were 5-2 at one point this season, enter the game in a a far greater tailspin than their opponent. They have lost three in a row, nine of 10 and 19 of 21.
Both teams will be missing their leading scorer from the earlier meeting. Griffin, who had 30 points in the 113-104 loss, is out with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Meanwhile, Mike Conley, the Grizzlies’ top scorer that day with 22 points, is recovering from Achilles soreness.
To make matters worse for Memphis, even a home game appears to be nothing more than a stop on the road as the Grizzlies get a single home date between two- and five-game trips.
Between Dec. 17 and Jan. 4, the Grizzlies will play more games at Phoenix (two) and Golden State (two) than at home.
The first of the two visits to Phoenix was a heartbreaker on Thursday night, when former Memphis guard Troy Daniels hit a late 3-pointer that doomed the Grizzlies in a 97-95 defeat.
The offensively challenged Grizzlies fell to 2-17 since Conley was given time off to deal with injury. They have failed to reach 100 points in all but four of those games.
Veteran center Marc Gasol, who had a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double at Phoenix, insists he hasn’t given up hope on a team that’s made the playoffs seven years in a row and can figure out a way to make a run for an eighth straight postseason berth.
“My job is not allowing anyone to throw away the season,” he said. “Because I’m 32 … 33 next month. I don’t have the season to throw away. I don’t have the luxury. I’m not 23 or 24, where I can just say, well, next year will be better. I have a sense of urgency and a desire to win.”
A Clippers-Grizzlies pairing means a duel between two of the top big men in the West: DeAndre Jordan and Gasol.
Gasol complemented Conley’s 22 points with 21 of his own when the Grizzlies won in Los Angeles in early November. Jordan had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double in support of Griffin’s 30-point game.