The Los Angeles Clippers have been a very bad team for the past few seasons. They used to be a decent shot for a Grizzlies win; maybe not so much this season. Even without #1 draft pick Blake Griffin, the Clippers have astounded with serious improvements from Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, and Chris Kaman.
Of course there are those that would say the difference has more to do with getting rid of Zach Randolph, who is now on your hometown Grizzlies. And they might be right. The Grizzlies have excelled at the two things Randolph does well this season, rebounding and scoring, but have been atrocious at the thing Randolph does worst -- play defense. That's not to place all the blame on Z-bo, but keep perspective in mind.
Moving on to your "Storylines of the Game," preview, and comments section. Also be sure to check out Clips Nation for the wrap-up from a Los Angeles frame of mind.
Storylines of the Game
Tremendous Randolphitude- I think it's safe to say that Zach Randolph is going to try very hard to impress his old team in this game, which will probably lead to him doing something absurd. For instance, watch for one of the above: turnaround three-pointer that hits top of backboard, dunk from free throw line stuffed by rim, whiff while attempting to punch Marcus Camby in the back of the head.
Eric Gordon vs. O.J. Mayo- Proof that high school hype is very important in shaping a young player's profile in the NBA, O.J. Mayo has been the talk of the town while, arguably, Eric Gordon has outplayed him. They are similar players, but Eric Gordon seems to be more consistent, plays within himself, and defends regularly.
Spanish Civil War Memorial- It's well documented that Chris Kaman loves to shoot inanimate objects with large firearms. It's well documented that Marc Gasol is Spanish. It's not so well documented that Kaman is American, but plays for the German national basketball team. Look for the two to collaboratively build a memorial to their countries' shared history.
Boom Dizzle- A former favorite player of my own (circa Warriors), Baron Davis is the key to this Clippers machine. If he plays lights out, which he does about every other night, then the Clippers win. If he self-destructs the team then, conversely, they tend to lose. Look for Davis to push Mike Conley to the floor and take a three pointer while straddling Conley's shocked frame.
Rudy Gay- Will actually see a defender worse than himself in Al Thornton, and one of similar quality in Rasual Butler. He should be set to put up some nice scoring numbers tonight.
Clippers 112, Grizzlies 99- Before I'm putting another opponent under 100, the Grizzlies have to prove they can play defense. Before I predict a Grizzlies win, the Grizzlies need to hold an opponent under 50% from the field. The Clippers might actually be playoff bound this season, and the Grizzlies will have an extremely difficult time handling them. I hope they'll fair better than the Warriors did last night, but an epic blowout isn't out of the question.
On the other hand, if the Grizzlies can stay in this one until the fourth quarter, they could very easily pull it out. The Clippers are about as fragile as the Grizzlies in terms of experience and steady handedness under pressure. While they play good defense, the Clippers offense can become stagnant and inefficient, particularly if their jumpshooters are struggling and Baron decides to take the globe on his back.