Surging Grizzlies visit Clippers

LOS ANGELES — The Memphis Grizzlies are the top team in the Western Conference, and carry a five-game winning streak into Staples Center on Friday to face the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Grizzlies’ most recent triumph was a 104-103 victory at San Antonio on Wednesday when Mike Conley scored 30 points with nine assists and Marc Gasol grabbed 10 rebounds and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line, including two foul shots with 0.7 seconds remaining to give Memphis the victory.

The Grizzlies are 8-3 in November and have figured out a lot about themselves after a shocking 102-100 defeat at Phoenix on Nov. 4. While scoring points is the way of the NBA these days, Memphis’ winning ways have coincided with defense.

In all 11 November games, the Grizzlies have held their opponent under their scoring average.

“We’re still growing,” Gasol said. “I think that defensively we understand that we’re growing consistently and working together and finding solutions when things happen on the floor. Offensively, same thing. We see different things that they do to us and we continue to talk about it and grow out of it.”

But don’t sleep on the Clippers. Just like last season when coach Doc Rivers did a masterful job in getting a winning record out of a roster that was crushed by injuries, the Clippers are doing it again this year with a crew void of superstars.

Rivers uses as many as 10, and sometimes 11 players a night, employing different looks that require opponents to adjust their defense at times. Late in games, Rivers goes with a mixture of starters and bench players in what could be knows as his “finishers.”

But that crew ran out of gas Tuesday as the Clippers squandered a 24-point lead and lost 125-118 at Washington to the Wizards. The defeat prevented a 3-0 road trip and ended the Clippers’ overall five-game winning streak that included victories over the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors.

“If you told me before I left (on the road trip) we’d be 2-1, I probably would have said, ‘good’,” Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But I’m greedy. I wanted them all.”

At 11-6, the Clippers enter Friday’s game tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder as the third-best team in the Western Conference. In Los Angeles, the Clippers’ success has even commanded at least a bit of attention away from the LeBron James-led Lakers, who are 10-7.

The Grizzlies also have a recent victory over the Bucks, one that started their five-game win streak. They have also won seven of their last eight, adding victories over the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets into that mix.

There is no doubting who the Grizzlies look toward for leadership.

“… Me and Mike (Conley) have to continue to be aggressive because that’s what the team really needs — for us to take the shots that are there and force a couple of shots that might not be the best shot, but are the best shot for us,” Gasol said.