WHEN: 9:30 PM CT
WHERE: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee)
LOS ANGELES.- Patrick Beverley (Out, knee), Danilo Gallinari (Out, glute), Austin Rivers (Questionable, heel)
MEMPHIS- Andrew Harrison, Tyreke Evans, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
LOS ANGELES- Milos Teodosic, Jawun Evans, C.J. Williams, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
There’s been some honest-to-goodness, well-played Memphis Grizzlies basketball lately. After starting their west coast road trip 2-2, Memphis looks to carry that good basketball to a victory against the Los Angeles Clippers in their final game before coming home.
The Grizzlies’ first game of 2018 will come after Memphis has won three of their last five games, a feat Memphis had not achieved since October when they started 5-1.
The first of those three wins came against the Clippers in Memphis. Ironically, in one of the few wins for Memphis lately, it was their fifth-worst defensive rating all year. The Grizzlies are 2-15 with a defensive rating of 110 or higher, so Memphis was fairly fortunate to get the win in their last match-up.
In order for more sustainable success and to put the Grizzlies in a better position to win, they can’t let any one person go off like they did in the last game, when they let both Austin Rivers and Lou Williams combine for 74 points on 24-42 shooting.
To actually do so, here is what to watch for between the two rivals before the season premiere of 2018.
Between the emergence of Kobi Simmons and return of Milos Teodosic, this will have a really fun match-up between two rookies. Teodosic is already 30, having played professional basketball overseas, but he brings an exciting freshness to the games he plays. He’s always looking down the court and can find an open man in just about any situation. Milos even has the touch to make the vision worth it with all sorts of dizzying passes.
Kobi Simmons meanwhile has brought an energy to the Grizzlies. He had his best game against Golden State, scoring 17 on just 10 shots. But scoring alone isn’t what he brings to the table. He is arguably one of the two or three most athletic players on a team severely lacking in athleticism. Not only does Memphis need him playing intense defense, but using his physical advantage over slower guards (like Teodosic) to blow past for drives into the paint and opportunities in transition.
Actual starting point guard Tyreke Evans will have a say in the matter as well. In the last five games, Reke has averaged 27.0 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game on 51.6% shooting from the field. A lot of his counting numbers can be considered empty calories, but his efficiency has been fantastic. It’s hard to stat-pad so efficiently and be a detriment, so if this what stat-padding looks like, it looks beautiful. A beautiful game from Tyreke will be needed to take home the W.
Blake is Back
After missing 14 games due to a sprained left knee, Blake Griffin made his return to the Clippers against the crosstown Lakers. He hasn’t skipped a beat production wise, posting 24-6-6 and 25-7-6 lines in the two games he has played since he returned.
Blake’s evolution is what a lot of NBA fans wanted to see earlier from the Oklahoma product. Playing with a ball-dominant Hall of Famer like Chris Paul can hide some particular skills of a player until they become unleashed. And unleashed Griffin was earlier this season. He’s become a much better jump shooter, finally shooting league average from three (35%) and shooting 12 percentage points higher than his career free throw average (79.4% vs. 67.9%).
Griffin missed the 115-112 Grizzlies win over Lob City a week ago, but he’ll be back in this one. The Clippers might not ever be at full strength, but being able to play Teodosic, Rivers, Griffin, Jordan is a good foundation for them on a night-to-night basis. It’ll also be good for Grizzlies as it’ll be a benchmark for this team to clear with regard to beating a team with a clear superstar in Griffin.
The Lakers did not have Lonzo Ball. The Kings didn’t have De’Aaron Fox. And the Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin (or a host of others). A win here would really be an indicator that the tide is turning in Memphis, and that would be a giant confidence boost going forward.
For this game? It’ll just be a hell of a defensive challenge for JaMychal Green.
You know what? Memphis has been pretty decent lately. They’re hitting their shots and--gasp--are looking fun in the process. Both teams are fairly inconsistent with below-average defenses, that could lead to a really fun match-up like last week’s game against Golden State or a really ugly match-up if neither team finds a rhythm.
I’m leaning towards a fun shootout. Blake Griffin playing helps the overall offensive firepower for the game, but I think his presence is also going to be the difference. Clippers and Grizzlies play a similar contest to their match-up in Memphis, but L.A. gets the W.
Los Angeles 119 Memphis 107