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.