PREVIEW: Scouting the red-hot L.A. Clippers
Coming off of a hard-fought win against the Utah Jazz, the Memphis Grizzlies face the L.A. Clippers for a second time this season in a match-up at Staples Center.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ win against the Utah Jazz on Monday was well deserved. Marc Gasol scored a season-high 22 points, including two three pointers and David Fizdale was proud of the team’s effort:
”I feel like this is the best four quarters we’ve put together,” Fizdale said. ”Guys, they want to win. They really want this and we’ve worked really hard over the past couple days to clean things up.”
However, the Clippers will prove to be a tough challenge on Wednesday night and Memphis will absolutely have to play through all four quarters. In their last match-up on Nov. 4, the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies 99-88.
Chris Paul and Mike Conley had a great head-to- head game. Conley scored 30 points and added 10 assists (with not a single turnover), while Paul had 27 points, 11 assists and 6 (!) steals. The Grizz will have to come prepared for this one.
Stopping the Clips
The Clippers have been on an absolute tear to start the season—a franchise best start of 10-1
—and show no signs of slowing down. In their game Monday against the Nets, the starting five of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah A Moute, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had an average plus/minus of +39.
The Rule of Two
Chris Paul has been, for a lack of a better term, balling out. His advanced stats so far make him an MVP favorite.
He is making three-pointers at an amazing 47 percent clip and is playing a career-low in minutes thus far, thanks to some depth behind him. If Tony Allen is still unavailable on Wednesday, Conley will have have his hands full on both ends of the court.
Meanwhile, Blake Griffin is flying under the radar due to the amazing play of Paul, but he really makes this team click. Griffin is averaging 20 points, 9.5 rebounds with 4 assists per game. His scoring has really only come from two locations, though it has been nothing but effective.
Stopping Blake from attacking the paint will be huge. He’s great at attacking and then dishing alongside his finishing abilities. Leaving him space on the perimeter is a calculated risk the Memphis Grizzlies should look to take.
Defense (Clap! Clap!)
The Clippers’ offense is fourth in the league in scoring at 108.8 points per game, but the real story has been their defense. They are limiting opponents to 92.2 points per game. For five-man units who have played more than 90 minutes together, the Clippers starters rank first in defensive rating, while the bench unit ranks second. Marc Gasol stretching the floor might change how their defense works, since he’ll be pulling DeAndre Jordan away from the paint.
The starters are causing turnovers on 7.3 percent of opponents’ possessions. Conley will have to be wary about turning the ball over, especially since the Clippers are averaging 20.5 points off of turnovers per game. Limiting turnovers will help keep the lead from ballooning. (The Clippers have had three 40-point leads in the past week and a half.)
Lock down the bench
The Clippers depth has been better than ever and on Monday night, the starters played an average of 24 minutes, while the second unit played an average of 22 minutes. The bench has not only been maintaining leads, but extending them in some cases. The ball movement has been excellent, partly in thanks to the addition of Raymond Felton, who has allowed both Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers to play off of the ball more. Marreese Speights (Mo’ Buckets!) has also been a solid backup big and can pair nicely next to both DeAndre and Blake.
Stopping this unit and forcing Doc to rely more on his starters (thus, wearing them out) can go a long way for the Memphis Grizzlies. Keeping Zach Randolph involved will put pressure on the bench unit. Mo Speights isn’t a shot blocker, so Z-Bo should focus on working him in the post while guards attack the lane.
On the defensive end, the Grizz have to keep their head on a swivel. They cannot get caught out of rotation because the Clippers will make them pay. The guards need to keep pressure on both Felton and Rivers and force them into mistakes.
Where to Watch
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and WatchESPN at 9:30 p.m. CT. Expect a tough fought game between the two rivals. Don’t expect the Clippers to blow out Memphis in the same fashion they have been doing, as their defense is bound to come back to earth at some point. The Grizzlies can pull off an upset here if they play smart and stay tough defensively. Plus, CP3 and DeAndre could still be dazed after pulling off this knuckle-headed move.
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