It appears it’s going to take something stronger than a widespread stomach virus to slow down the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
If the first two stops on their seven-game road trip are any indication, the Los Angeles Clippers may be up to the task.
The Grizzlies try to improve on the NBA’s best record and extend their regular-season home winning streak to 22 on Sunday against a Clippers team that knows a thing or two about leaving Memphis with a victory.
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A flu bug ripped through the Grizzlies’ locker room earlier this week, leading Memphis (11-2) to send five players home early from Toronto before it blew a fourth-quarter lead in Wednesday’s 96-92 loss.
The Grizzlies looked plenty comfortable back in familiar surroundings Friday. Marc Gasol tied a career high with 32 points and Jon Leuer – one of the five who caught the early flight home – had 19 in 22 minutes off the bench in a 117-100 rout of Boston.
"With the stomach virus that we all had, I think, the guys are still coming back from that," Leuer said. "We are still feeling a little run down, but it’s just a matter when you step between the lines you can’t make any excuses. You just have to go play."
That was the fifth time in seven home wins this season that Memphis has shot at least 50 percent, and continued a trend of dominance inside. The Grizzlies outscored the Celtics 66-38 in the paint and have averaged a 16-point edge in those five aforementioned home victories.
Slowing down the Clippers (7-4) in the lane might not be as easy. Los Angeles is shooting 65.0 percent inside of five feet – among the top five teams in the league – and has enjoyed an 82-58 edge in the paint through the first two games of its trip.
The Clippers have been awfully good from the outside as well. A night after going 12 for 21 from 3-point range in a 114-90 win over Orlando, Los Angeles hit 13 of 31 from long distance and shot 55.8 percent overall while rolling past Miami 110-93 on Thursday.
"Especially (against the Heat), I thought we put it together for pretty much all four quarters," Blake Griffin said after matching Chris Paul with a team-high 26 points. "At times, we got a little sloppy, but tonight we built upon what we did (Wednesday) night, and that’s promising. That’s what we need to do every night out."
The Grizzlies haven’t lost at home in the regular season since before last season’s All-Star break, a stretch that included a 102-96 win over the Clippers. Memphis dominated inside in that one, with Gasol and Zach Randolph combining for 38 points and 21 rebounds as the Grizzlies owned a 60-34 edge in the paint.
Los Angeles had won its three previous regular-season visits to FedEx Forum, though Gasol missed a 101-81 Clippers victory last December with an MCL sprain.
Not surprisingly, the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year’s presence in the paint tends to make a big difference in this series. Including the playoffs, the Grizzlies have won the last six meetings in which he’s been healthy as Gasol has averaged 18.5 points.
Randolph’s been even better in those six games, averaging 24.3 points and shooting 57.4 percent.
The Clippers, averaging NBA bests of 111.5 points and 26.5 assists through four road games while shooting 42.3 percent from 3, are hoping this time is different.
"We’re forcing some turnovers, and we’ve got shooters," Paul said. "We’ve got finishers. When everything is clicking like that and the ball is moving, a team really can’t key on one guy."