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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers Game Preview

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Grizzlies look to close the gap in fiery playoff race

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (29-27, 16-11 road) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (40-19, 23-8 home)

WHEN: 9:00 PM CST

WHERE: STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBA TV/Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (left thigh soreness, Questionable), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee surgery recovery, Questionable), Jonas Valanciunas (concussion protocol, Out)

LOS ANGELES: Patrick Beverley (left hand surgery, Out), Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness, Out), Kawhi Leonard (sore foot, Out)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Xavier Tillman Sr.

LOS ANGELES: Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Terrance Mann, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac


The Memphis Grizzlies are in the thick of their historic road trip.

After a gut punch of a loss in Denver, the Grizzlies will officially mark the halfway point of the seven game road trip tonight. While it would have been nice to start the trip 3-0, a 2-1 record isn’t too shabby either as they look to close in on seventh place in the West and first place in the Southwest division. The Grizzlies will have their hands full as they come down from an intense loss in Mile High to face a Clippers team that is taking their “Defend LA” mantra to heart as they hold a 23-8 record at STAPLES Center. Their play on their home turf is a massive reason they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference.

Barring a postseason matchup, this will be the Grizzlies final matchup of the season vs. the Clippers. The two teams split a double header in Memphis in late February. The Clippers, led by the play of All-Stars Paul George & Kawhi Leonard are rolling as they have won 8 of their last 10 games but the Grizzlies have shown time and time again they can play with anyone. They just have to finish.

And by the way, Jaren Jackson Jr. may be back tonight.

Clamp Down

Los Angeles Clippers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The key to winning this game is simple. Punch first.

While the Grizzlies shot an astronomical 54.3% from the field in their win against the Clippers in February, the high caliber of defense that was played was just as, if not more, important. At that point in the season, the Memphis Grizzlies were one of the top defenses in the NBA. In this game, it showed. Kawhi Leonard was held to 17 points on less than 50% shooting. Paul George was held to 13 points on 25% shooting.

We haven’t seen that team as of late as the Grizzlies rank 23rd defensively over the course of the last 10 games. That won’t work against a Clippers team that has strived defensively even in absence of Patrick Beverley. After their February win, Taylor Jenkins stated it was, “Just urgency to defend the 3-point line” and “Tryin to deter catch-and-shoot threes” that played a role in their winning formula. This should be par for the course tonight as well as the Grizzlies should focus on shrinking the floor and defending the perimeter.

Stay Hot Offensively

LA Clippers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Patrick Beverley & Kawhi Leonard being out helps in this category.

As fellow GBB writer Shawn Coleman highlighted yesterday, this April stretch of Memphis Grizzlies basketball is the best offensive basketball in franchise history. Just as it did a few days ago in Milwaukee, this could come in handy against a Clippers team that has hovered in or just around being a top ten defense all season. The Grizzlies won’t have it easy on this side of the floor either but going against a Clippers team on the second game of a back to back may lead to some looks that may not normally present themselves due to sluggishness.

They have to take advantage of the opportunities they create with their defense as well as the looks the Clippers provide them in half court situations.

The Prediction

This prediction is hard to do because of all the uncertainty surrounding this game. Will Jaren Jackson Jr. descend from the heavens to make his debut? Will Paul George decide to go into load management? Will Dillon Brooks be able to continue his All-Defense campaign?

There’s a lot of questions but one there is one thing that is finite: The Memphis Grizzlies have to finish. I believe that regardless of who plays tonight the Grizzlies will compete - of that I am certain. The game will come down to the final two minutes. Will they learn from losses to the Knicks, Mavericks, and Nuggets or will they let another victory slip through their fingers? Hopefully lessons have been learned and the Grizzlies can steal one in STAPLES - a place where Ja Morant shines.

FINAL SCORE: Grizzlies 111, Clippers 108

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