Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers Preview: All hate, grit, grind

Andy Lyons

With the Grizzlies making no trades at the deadline, tonight's key addition against the hated Clippers will be the return of the Grindfather, Tony Allen. The Grindhouse should be rockin' on James Johnson neck tat night. Can the Griz rock the Clips?

2013/2014 NBA Season
vs
30-23 (15-14 home)
Won 3
37-19 (14-14 road)
Lost 1
February 21st, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Chris Paul
Courtney Lee SG Jamal Crawford
Tayshaun Prince SF Matt Barnes
Zach Randolph PF Blake Griffin
Marc Gasol C DeAndre Jordan
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.9 (30th) Pace 98.0 (T-8th)
102.1 (19th) OEff 108.7 (T-2nd)
102.1 (T-8th) DEff 102.2 (T-10th)
Injury Report

L.A. Clippers - J.J. Redick (Out, back)

Memphis Grizzlies- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Opponent's Blog: Clips Nation

Key Matchups

Mike Conley vs. Chris Paul Conley and Paul are both recently recovered from missing significant time with injury - Conley in his 2nd game back after missing 7, Paul in his 4th game back after missing 18. Both teams had their ups and downs without their floor general and are glad to have them back. Paul is coming off a 1-10 shooting night in a loss vs. the Spurs, while Conley put up 22 and carried the Grizzlies down the stretch in the win over the Knicks. Conley and Chris Paul have played to a draw overall in the Grizzlies previous two meetings, but as always when these two teams meet up, this will be a matchup to watch.

Zach Randolph vs. Blake Griffin Speaking of classic Grizzlies-Clippers matchups, the battle royale in the paint will continue to come down to Z-Bo and Blake duking it out. Old man Z-Bo continues to hold a slight advantage this season, putting up 19 PPG & 13.5 RPG on 48% shooting to Blake's 18.5 PPG & 10 RPG on 44% shooting in their head-to-head matchuos. Blake is having a career year, scoring 24.4 points and 9.9 rebounds on 54% shooting for the season, so expect Z-Bo to keep dragging him in the mud and working to make the game too physical for Blake.

A clash of styles The Grizzlies have been one of the league's best defensive teams since the calendar rolled over to 2014, and especially since Marc Gasol's return to the middle. Along with that, the team's pace of play - already among the slowest in the league - has crept lower and lower as the game has slowed to accommodate the bigs. Statistically, that's resulted in the Grizzlies now being 3rd in the league in points per game allowed on the season behind the Bulls and the Pacers. Sound like familiar company? If Grit 'n' Grind isn't back, a damn good facsimile is making an appearance.

Meanwhile, the Clippers are just a step behind the Grizzlies in defensive efficiency but are offensively one of the fastest-paced and most efficient offensive teams in the league. The Grizzlies will want to control tempo and play style in this game. They want this to be an ugly game.

He's ba-ack

Grindfather Tony Allen makes his return to the Grizzlies tonight after missing 21 games, and has expressed a willingness to come off the bench. It seems the best move, as it would allow Tony to be paired with a shooter like Mike Miller instead of the floor-space-killing combo of he and Tayshaun Prince. The Grizzlies have had their best run of the season with Tony sidelined, going 16-5. On the other hand, Courtney Lee has slumped some of late after a hot start with the Grizzlies, shooting 23% from 3 for the month of February. It will bear watching how Coach Dave Joerger pairs and matches up TA and C-Lee going forward.

They soft

The Clippers (14-14) and Dallas (also 14-14) are the only two teams in the Western Conference with a winning record overall but without a winning record on the road. Contrast that to LA's home record (23-5) and it's easy to see they love the friendly confines of Staples Center. The Grizzlies and their fans will do everything in their power tonight to make the atmosphere conducive to prolonging the Clippers' road struggles.

Bench battle

With the loss of JJ Redick to injury and the Clippers' inability to pull off a significant move at the trade deadline, they have been left with limited bench options. It's just one statistic, but the Clippers have only one bench player with a PER in double digits (Darren Collison, who in fairness has been quite good). Contrast that to the Grizzlies bench where, with the return of Tony Allen the Grizzlies now have 7 such bench players (Allen, Nick Calathes, Ed Davis James Johnson, Kosta Koufos, Jon Leuer and Mike Miller). On paper, the Grizzlies bench should win their time on the court.

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

The Clippers went 12-6 in Chris Paul's absence, much of that due to Blake Griffin carrying the load. Griffin averaged 26 points on 55% shooting and 8 rebounds per game in January, and has increased that to 34 points on 59% shooting and 11 rebounds thus far in February. He is playing some outstanding ball. (and I just threw up a little from having complimented Blake Griffin)

The Bottom Line

This is going to be a tough game for the Grizzlies, no doubt of it. A healthy Chris Paul and a career-year Blake Griffin lead the way for the West's 4th-best team in the Clippers. That said, the Grizzlies have a lot going for them on paper - the bench advantage, the Clippers' road struggles, and the fact that Conley and Randolph have played their counterparts to a draw in their previous matchups this season. I expect another hard-fought Grizzlies-Clippers game, one the Grizzlies should have the opportunity to win.

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