WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (5-5, 1-3 road) vs. L.A. Clippers (10-1, 5-1 home)
WHEN: 9:30 PM CT
WHERE: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Tony Allen (Doubtful, groin), Brandan Wright (Out, ankle), Chandler Parsons (Questionable, knee), Mike Conley (Questionable, hamstring)
L.A. CLIPPERS- Wesley Johnson (Questionable, heel)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, James Ennis, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
L.A. CLIPPERS- Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
The Memphis Grizzlies picked up a massive win in Utah on Monday night against the Jazz. It was a key victory for lots of reasons- Utah was undermanned, the Grizzlies hadn’t won a road game yet all season, potential playoff implications all come to mind. But another major aspect of that triumph is the fact that Memphis had already lost on Saturday night against Milwaukee and a 2-2 road trip would have been unlikely considering tonight’s opponent.
Despite our collective bias as Grizzlies fans (I am a part of that, for sure), the Clippers to this point in the season are the best team in the NBA. They currently sit atop the Western Conference, their +16.6 point differential is the best in the NBA by 6.7 points, and their opponents are only scoring 92.2 points per game so far this season- that is also best in the Association.
Chris Paul is one of the early favorites for the MVP award, the Clippers bench is actually a strength for them to this point in the season (a drastic difference from Clipper teams in recent history) and Blake Griffin (20.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (10.5 points, 12.4 rebounds) are as dominant a front court tandem as you will find in the NBA.
The Grizzlies will have their hands full. How can they keep it close?
Win on the Wing
The last time these Grizzlies met these Clippers in Memphis, Chandler Parsons had not yet been cleared to participate in games by the team. Parsons is clearly still finding himself post-injury- his jumper is not consistently crisp in terms of lift on the shot, and he struggled at times simply blowing past Joe Ingles, one of the slowest in terms of lateral quickness defenders in the NBA. A match-up that Chandler would have dominated before his surgery was more of a challenge than he perhaps would care to admit.
So why depend on Parsons against the Clippers? It isn’t so much Chandler, as it is the depth that Memphis has on the wing between him, Vince Carter, and James Ennis. The one clear weakness on the Clippers is at the small forward position- Mbah a Moute, Paul Pierce, and Wes Johnson (if he plays) are not the caliber of the Grizzly wings. If Parsons can turn it on under the bright lights of national TV, and Vince Carter can continue his dynamic play off the bench, Memphis can win this match-up.
Point guard? Hope for a wash between Paul and Mike Conley. Same at shooting guard with J.J. Redick and Ennis. Blake Griffin will likely win his match-up with JaMychal Green/Zach Randolph. Center could be a win for Marc Gasol against Jordan, but it will probably be close. The Grizzlies need a big win on the wing to compete.
The Grizzlies enter this game as 12 point underdogs, and considering the fact that the Clippers beat them by 11 at home earlier this season, that feels right. L.A. is playing terrific basketball on both ends right now, and considering the continued limitations of Chandler Parsons it feels like wishful thinking to predict a Grizzlies win.
However, this is a Grizzlies blog, and optimism should reign more often than not. The Grizzlies will not win this contest, but they will compete- and Chandler Parsons will have his best showing yet. If Parsons were 100% and playing 30+ minutes, the Grizzlies would have a chance. Since he is not, the Clippers will pull away in the second half and send Memphis to Dallas, the last game of their road trip, looking for that valuable 2-2 split.