Coming off a tough loss against Philadelphia, the Memphis Grizzlies look to bounce back against a Los Angeles Clippers team who is tied for No. 1 in the conference. Managing editor Robert Flom of Clips Nation gives his take on the upcoming game between the Clippers and Grizzlies.
I see the Clippers are more sound defensively over the past few games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander anchors the defense and the point. How valuable is SGA to the Clippers especially since he is a rookie?
SGA has been incredibly valuable to the Clippers through the first 20+ games of the season. While even great rookies are usually error-prone and lack the understanding of the finer nuances of the NBA games, Shai has stood out with his fundamentals on both ends of the floor. He’s calm on offense, always getting the offense into sets, and never rushing things. Shai is already a maestro in the pick and roll, capable of getting to his spot in the midrange, attacking the basket, or dishing to teammates. On defense, Shai’s incredible length and quickness enables him to contest shots that other teammates can’t, and rack up steals and blocks.
He still fouls too much, and gets caught up on screens due to his lack of strength, but he’s a positive defensively, and that’s might impressive for a rookie.
Tobias Harris made a huge push this year in scoring and defense. Is there a chance for him to be the Most Improved Player this season?
Probably not. He’s improved significantly this season, boosting his overall scoring abilities, defense, and particularly rebounding. But he was already pretty good last season, particularly during his Clippers’ stint, and probably hasn’t improved enough to push him past younger players who have made leaps this season.
Montrezl Harrell is a powerhouse in the post. What can we expect from him in this game? Especially going against Jaren Jackson Jr. and JaMychal Green.
Montrezl was phenomenal against the Grizzlies in their matchup a couple weeks ago, putting up 22 and 11 with 2 blocks, and scoring several key baskets down the stretch of the game. JJJ’s length bothered him on both ends of the court at times, but Trez never backs down. You can always count on Harrell to be aggressive on offense and defense. On offense he loves to attack the basket, and will go up strong even when facing a monstrous defensive team like the Grizzlies. On defense, Harrell is by far the Clippers’ quickest big man, capable of switching onto smaller players on the perimeter as well as provide rim protection.
If the Clippers are to pull off this game in Memphis, they will need a standout performance from Trez.
This is a key matchup and rival for the Memphis Grizzlies. I know this is a different team without Lob City. What differences have you seen with the Clippers since Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan left?
I think a key difference has been in terms of attitude. The Lob City Clippers were far more talented, but always seemed to be in their own heads. They failed in the clutch time and time again, lost to teams they should have beaten, and looked perpetually on the edge of melting down, especially in later years. This Clippers’ team has similar problems with holding leads, but they never look rattled, and always appear to have faith in their ability to win games, even when the situation is against them. Another difference: this iteration of the Clippers is fun to watch, and quite likable.
Nobody liked the Lob City Clippers, especially at the end of their run, and watching a team that enjoys playing together is quite refreshing.
The Clippers are tied No. 1 in the conference. What factors led to the team’s success in the first quarter of the season?
I think the most significant factor is the one I mentioned in the previous question about their change in attitude. This Clippers’ team has been in a ton of close games, but have pulled a large percentage of them out due to their calmness under pressure (and ability to hit free throws).
Having a healthy Danilo Gallinari has also been huge. The Italian Stallion has long been a fringe All-Star level player when healthy, and he’s been incredible thus far this season, hitting nearly 50% of his threes and playing solid defense across multiple positions. As long as the Clippers can keep him on the court, their offense should continue to rank very highly.
Finally, the Clippers’ bench is one of the best in the NBA. Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams are a dynamic one-two punch, and Pat Beverley, Mike Scott, and Ty Wallace/Sindarius Thornwell are not slouches either. Having a bench that can put up 60 points in any game is quite a weapon, and one the Clippers have relied on heavily to start the season.
What matchups do you look forward to seeing tonight?
I was looking forward to Montrezl vs. JJJ before the last game, and that matchup did not disappoint. While it might be more original to come up with a different matchup, I’m boring, and I expect those two to play some fantastic basketball against one another in this one too. Harrell is such a bully inside and relies on his strength, while JJJ has that ridiculous wingspan and a surprising amount of finesse. It should be a fascinating clash between styles, and one I am very much anticipating.
The Memphis Grizzlies will face the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at FedExForum at 7:00 pm. Thanks again to Robert and Clips Nation!