WHEN: 9:30 AM CT
WHERE: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBATV/Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (out, knee), Justise Winslow (out, back), Grayson Allen (out, hip)
L.A. CLIPPERS: Patrick Beverley (questionable, groin), Paul George (questionable, hamstring)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
L.A. Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Landry Shamet, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
The second time the Memphis Grizzlies take the floor at Staples Center in Los Angeles in four days will look a lot different than the first.
Aside from the obvious - the Clippers and not the Lakers setup at Staples - the Grizzlies starting lineup will have been changed, and not because of poor play. Jaren Jackson Jr. got hurt against the Lakers, and now Memphis must find a way to survive at least the next two weeks without their beloved unicorn.
Beyond what they do in the starting lineup - Clarke makes the most sense, but there are other options (Josh Jackson, De’Anthony Melton, etc.) - the style that they play and the pace that they play at surely will need to be tweaked at some level. The thing about losing Jackson Jr. is you miss out on an impact player on both ends of the floor. When you consider both his shooting ability offensively and rim protection defensively, the task of filling his shoes becomes even more daunting.
How can the Grizzlies knock off the title-contending (but on a three-game losing streak of their own) Clippers in L.A.? Two quick keys.
- Own the paint. Losing Jaren as a shooter matters. But that space he provides, while valuable, does not make Memphis a threat as a team overall from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies are 19th in the NBA in three point percentage as a team, yet are 1st in the Association in points in the paint. The reasons for that are still very present, especially ja Morant off of dribble penetration and Jonas Valanciunas down low. Teams will collapse in the lane and force kickouts, but coach Taylor Jenkins and his staff need counter punches to force teams to leave shooters wide open instead of just ignoring them while Morant and Valanciunas work in the lane.
- Take away the supporting cast. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (if he plays) are superstars in the NBA. The Grizzlies simply are not equipped to completely eliminate their impact. Memphis can, however, limit “the other guys” like Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr., and Montrezl Harrell. That’s not meant as disrespect - especially Williams and Harrell are elite reserves and major parts of what the Clippers hope to do from a title perspective. But Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, Josh Jackson and other Grizzlies wings will have their hands full in one on one matchups with George and Leonard. It’ll be up to Memphis to not let the Patrick Beverleys of the world beat them.
In their first game without Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis has an opportunity to catch the Clippers by surprise. Up until now Jaren has been quite durable - JJJ has played in all but two of the games for the Grizzlies so far this season, and of course is a major part of the Grizzlies being so ahead of schedule. There’s a reason Memphis fans are saying the playoffs are lost - even though it may be a bit too doom and gloom, it’s out of respect for what Jackson Jr. means to this Grizzlies team.
So while the Clippers are expected to win, do not be surprised if the Grizzlies give them their best shot. The culture this team is building is one of competition. Even in the face of tough odds, that likely will not fade because they’re without one of their young cornerstones. Look for the rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke to pick up some slack, with De’Anthony Melton and Jonas Valanciunas contributing heavily toward a “moral victory” in which Memphis proves they can, indeed, survive without Jaren for now.
L.A. Clippers 117, Memphis 112