The Memphis Grizzlies seek their second win over the Los Angeles Clippers this season on Thursday when the two meet in a Western Conference showdown in Memphis.
The Grizzlies bested the Clippers in Los Angeles on Oct. 23, 120-114, behind 28 points and eight assists from Ja Morant, 22 points from De’Anthony Melton and 21 from Jaren Jackson Jr.
That loss was part of a 1-4 start for Los Angeles, which is without Kawhi Leonard due to a knee injury sustained in last summer’s NBA Playoffs. Since their early-season struggles, the Clippers are 8-1, including a 106-92 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
Paul George recorded his 10th consecutive game scoring at least 20 points on Tuesday, notching 34 to go with nine rebounds.
George’s play has buoyed Los Angeles through its current winning run, as have the contributions of the Clippers’ reserves. Luke Kennard finished with a plus-31 plus-minus rating on Tuesday in his seven-point, seven-rebound effort, and rookie Brandon Boston Jr. scored 13 points.
Boston had just three points all season prior to Tuesday’s outpouring. The University of Kentucky product was a second-round draft pick of Memphis but was traded to the Clippers in a deal made through the New Orleans Pelicans.
Assorted injuries and absences have necessitated different Clippers like Boston to step up. They played Tuesday without one of their primary bench contributors in Terance Mann.
Mann is sidelined with an ankle injury.
“We’re just going to miss his energy,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said in his postgame press conference. “The way he rebounds the basketball, he attacks, the passion he plays with every single night.”
Los Angeles was also without Justise Winslow for personal reasons on Tuesday. Serge Ibaka and Marcus Morris have both appeared in just two games this season, and Keon Johnson has played only once due to an ankle injury.
Memphis, meanwhile, has been at full strength for the first time on the campaign with Dillon Brooks’ return to the lineup last week from a fractured left hand.
Brooks has scored 59 combined points in his three appearances since rejoining the Grizzlies on Nov. 10, including 16 in Memphis’ 136-102 rout of the Houston Rockets on Monday.
“I do whatever it takes to win,” Brooks said in Monday’s postgame press conference. “I play the game the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t take no shortcuts.”
The 34-point blowout snapped a three-game losing skid for the Grizzlies and pulled them back to .500 for the season.
“We talked about our shifts the last couple of days, tweaking some things there,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of defensive adjustments made after the three-game losing skid. “I thought our activity off the ball was really good … our help defense was a lot better.”
A defensive priority for Memphis against Los Angeles will be slowing George, who scored 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting when the teams met last month.
Offensively, the Grizzlies lean on the playmaking of Morant. Monday marked his fifth consecutive game scoring at least 22 points, and he has dished at least six assists in each of his past eight outings.
–Field Level Media