Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers (-5)
The Los Angeles Clippers (4-2, 3-1 Home) started the season on fire with four straight wins. But Blake Griffin and company have now dropped two straight on the road to conference rivals Golden State and Houston. Tonight, they return home and will look to get back on track against another Western Conference hopeful when they host the Memphis Grizzlies (3-4, 2-3 Away) at the Staples Center (10:30 PM Eastern).
Los Angeles gave the Warriors all they could handle on Wednesday night, holding a one-point lead with just over a minute to play. But the Warriors showed their championship mettle, coming back for a 112-108 win. Los Angeles played the Rockets tough on Saturday night, as well (sans star point guard Chris Paul), battling from 11 down to tie the game at 105 late in the fourth. But after James Harden hit a pair of free throws, Griffin came up dry on a short jumper and the Clips fell 109-105.
“I didn’t think we were very organized. I didn’t think we executed very well,” coach Doc Rivers told the team’s official website. “A lot of that was not the point guard, it was just the way we played.”
Paul, who is battling a groin strain, is doubtful for tonight’s game. If he doesn’t suit up, Doc’s son, Austin Rivers, will get the start in his stead. “CP3” had been his usual productive self in the early going, averaging 17.0 points and 8.0 assists per game. Rivers struggled to make up for Paul’s absence, scoring ten points and adding just one dime in over 30 minutes of floor time.
The loss of Paul puts increased pressure on Griffin at the offensive end. The power forward did his part in the loss to Houston, scoring 35 points (up from his 29.3 PPG average) on 14 of 22 shooting from the field.
Though they’ll likely be without Paul, the Clippers are catching a break by getting the Grizzlies at the tail-end of a five-game road trip and the midst of their own two-game losing streak. After splitting the first two of their five-game western swing, the Grizz have dropped double-digits contests to a pair of the conference’s lesser squads: the Portland Trail Blazers (115-96) and Utah Jazz (89-79).
“We can be better,” coach Dave Joerger told the Associated Press. “They’re sticking together. We knew coming in it was a rough patch to our schedule. We want to put out better performances on a consistent basis. Now you need every single win, don’t get me wrong, in the West. But to go out and play better and be more who we are on a nightly basis would be good.”
Offense has been extremely hard to come by for Memphis, which is averaging just 90.9 PPG (second-worst in the league). The team shot a woeful 33-percent from the field in Portland (30 of 91). Point guard Mike Conley led the team with 20 points, but needed 25 shots to get there.
Making matters worse, the team’s usually stingy defense, which gave up 95.1 points against per game in 2014 (second-best in the NBA), is surrendering triple-digits on average in the early going (101.7).
The Clippers’ defense is nothing special, either, giving up just over 103 points per night. But the offense has been rolling and should have enough, even without Paul, to cover at home against the struggling Grizzlies. The trends also look good for LA, which is 15-7 SU in their last 22 against Memphis at the STAPLES Center.
Pick: Clippers -5.
(Photo credit: 2O (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)