Clippers take on Grizzlies Saturday night
The Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies appear to be headed toward a first-round playoff matchup, though both clubs are hoping to look much different by the time they get there.
While the Clippers are now likely to be without their leading scorer until later this month, the Grizzlies are missing so much more as they stand on the verge of their longest slide in 27 months.
Los Angeles will try to close the gap on third place in the Western Conference on Saturday night when it chases a fourth consecutive victory over host Memphis, which looks to avoid a fifth straight defeat.
The Clippers have more than held their own with a 26-11 record since All-Star Blake Griffin went down. They've moved five games ahead of the fifth-place Grizzlies in a potential opening-round showdown, but received some bad news last weekend when Griffin suffered a setback in his return from a quad injury.
J.J. Redick stepped up with 25 points and five 3-pointers on Wednesday while DeAndre Jordan had 23 points and 16 rebounds and Chris Paul added 15 points and 16 assists in a 122-106 win at Houston.
"Even before Blake left, we've become a grinding team," coach Doc Rivers told the team's official website. "You've just got to hang in there ... There's no guarantee what lineup we're going to have."
The lineup Rivers does have has raised its level of play. Redick has scored 20.3 per game while hitting 53.7 percent from 3-point range in his last six, while Jordan has averaged 17.3 points on 80.3 percent shooting over his past eight and Paul has put up 22.5 points and 11.7 assists in his last 15.
Redick also shined in the first meeting with Memphis (39-30) on Nov. 9, scoring six consecutive points over the final 55 seconds to help the Clippers (43-24) rally for a 94-92 victory at Staples Center.
Los Angeles has won three straight in this series after dropping seven of the previous eight, including the 2013 first-round playoff series that the Grizzlies won in six games. Now the Clippers will try to inch closer to third-place Oklahoma City as they continue a difficult five-game road swing.
The Grizzlies have a comfortable hold on fifth but things are moving in the wrong direction after host Milwaukee handed them a sixth loss in eight games, 96-86 on Thursday. The Grizzlies have lost most of their rotation to injury, including starters Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph.
"We keep attacking, keep doing what we can," coach Dave Joerger told the team's official website.
Randolph will likely be a game-time decision after missing the past seven with a sore knee, while reserve Vince Carter also could return after sitting out the last four due to a strained calf.
Lance Stephenson, acquired from Los Angeles for Jeff Green on Feb. 18, has filled in with 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game in his last four. Matt Barnes, another former Clipper, has averaged 16 points and 8.2 boards over his past five and JaMychal Green has had 14.1 and 8.3 in his last eight.
The Grizzlies aren't getting much help from others, averaging just 95.8 points on 38.7 percent shooting in their past six games. They've also given up an uncharacteristic 110.8 points per game over that span.