Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers (-4, 203 o/u)
Conventional wisdom suggested the Los Angeles Clippers’ (37-19, 23-7 home) season was in jeopardy when Blake Griffin left the team due to a staph infection. However, over that five-game stretch, the Clippers are not only 4-1, but are also averaging a staggering 115.6 PPG.
On the weekend, the Clippers crushed Sacramento 126-99; stepping up in place of Griffin is the newly acquired Austin Rivers, son of head coach Doc Rivers, who scored a career-high 28 points.
“There’s a will and guys really want to win. It’s nice to be a part of that,” the younger Rivers said. “We’ve just got to keep going, take it game by game because it’s the [Western Conference] and it’s tough.”
Also upping his contributions is guard Jamal Crawford, who is averaging 22.0 PPG in his last six games.
But the key to staying hot without Griffin has been ball movement, according to the coach, who watched his team pile up 31 assists against the Kings.
“We have one of the top five players in the league out, and the only way we play well is by moving the ball,” said Doc.
The Clippers will have to continue to share the ball well tonight when they face the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies (40-14, 17-9 away) at the STAPLES Center (10:30 p.m. Eastern).
The Grizzlies are giving up just 95.7 PPG on the year, best in the NBA, and only 88.3 PPG in their last 13 games.
On Sunday, Memphis downed fellow division leader Portland, 98-92, on the road. The Grizzlies were down by 13 points in the last quarter before Marc Gasol scored eight of his team-high 21 points in the last six minutes. Courtney Lee also played a key role in the comeback, scoring seven of his 19 points in the last three minutes.
“They got the big lead, but we kept playing, came out scoring well in the fourth and getting stops,” said Gasol. “We kept scratching and clawing and getting closer and closer. Then we ended the game with a lot of stops.”
Look for the more rested Clippers to keep their momentum going at home against the Grizzlies, who will be tired from last night’s game in Portland. The play is Los Angeles laying the points (-4).
(Photo credit: By Verse Photography (Flickr: 20131118 ClippersvGrizzles30.2) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)