Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Los Angeles Clippers
When: Monday, January 14th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (24-11), Los Angeles (28-9)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss at: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis fell far far short in the last one, which was clearly a trap game in the truest sense, and as such is nearly impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions from. It was sandwiched between an overtime thriller against the Spurs, and what feels to fans at the very least as the biggest revenge game on the schedule that I can imagine. Man, I just love bad blood games. The Clippers are set to make their way back to the FedEx Forum for the first time since that miserable game seven, which I wish to speak nothing more of. They continued their stomp on our Grizzlies’ pride in opening day this season, in a 101-92 defeat. If you’re looking for an X-factor in this one, I’m going to point out Darrell Arthur as a potential difference maker. Something we’ve struggled mightily with against the Clippers (like everyone else does) is the sheer athleticism of their frontcourt. Darrell has yet to play the Clips in the Chris Paul era, and could be an integral force in busting their pick and rolls. Something we don’t have going for us this time is Rudy Gay, as he will not be with the team due to attending his late grandmother’s funeral. With regards to the game as a whole, I’d say that while the thought of beating the Clippers is tantalizing to us fans, and the players could use it as motivation to some extent, they can’t afford to get caught up in the vengeance of the moment. The way that the Grizzlies are going to win tonight is to impose their will by simply playing their game, executing to near perfection, and creating havoc on the Clippers offensive possessions. They cannot afford to play out of control against a very good Clippers team. For the record, the Grizzlies’ schedule will not be getting any easier, as they are set to play the Spurs again, this time in San Antonio, two days after this one. Oof, what a week!
Los Angeles has been a cold-blooded assassin of the league this year, matched only by Oklahoma City in winning percentage, averaging 100 points per game, leading the league in turnovers forced per game, and second in assisted baskets per game. What does that all tell you? Aside from the fact that they’re pretty good, Chris Paul is an absolute nightmare. Say what you want about the flopping, he’s far and away the best traditional point guard in the league. The sheer impact of his arrival to a middling team in Los Angeles just a year ago should tell you all that you need to know. He does everything that is to be asked of the position and does in exceptionally well. His name is a lock to be near the top of the pack when MVP discussions roll around, as he’s put together another great year averaging around 17 points, 10 assists, and 2.5 steals per, with an astounding PER of 26.58, which pegs him at third in the league behind LBJ and KD.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Chris Paul:
Speaking of CP3… I’ve really left little else to analyze about him for his matchup, other than the fact that it’s games like these where Mike Conley will have to really work for it, tonight. After chasing Tony Parker all over the court on Friday night, now he draws Paul. I can’t speak for Mike, but if he was asked which fellow point guards are his toughest assignments, I would have to imagine that the two would be near or at the top of his list.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Wayne Ellington vs Willie Green:
Rudy Gay has to miss this game as a reminder that there are things bigger than the game, and sometimes real life gets in the way of basketball. While we extend our condolences to him and his family for their loss, there is a game to be played. While it has yet to be announced who will start in his place, if I had to venture a guess as to which direction Hollins will go, I’d say Wayne Ellington jumps into the lineup, sliding TA over to the three. Ellington vs Green is far from an inspiring matchup, but the real battle at this spot will be waged when the teams dip into their benches. I would like to say, however, that with Rudy out, another “I make it rain” Ellington outburst would be gladly welcomed.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Tony Allen vs Caron Butler:
Caron “Tough Juice” Butler is not the most friendly draw for Tony Allen to be forced out of position against. While he’s not the multi-versed threat that he once was, he’s still a very capable player that can go off for big scoring nights when called upon. Tony is an all-world defender, but Butler is a big bodied SF, who could do some serious damage posting up smaller defenders. If Darrell were to slide in here to guard Butler, I’d be a bit more confident.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Zach Randolph vs Blake Griffin:
I’ll start off by stating that in no way do I believe that the playoff series of last season should be used as an indicator of what is to come of tonight’s matchup between these two physical power forwards. Now before you glance down at the advantage claim for this matchup, expose me for being the blind homer that I am, and remind me that Blake Griffin is a big time superstar, hear me out. Blake’s game is predicated on the utilization of his all-world athleticism and above the rim flair, and while he is built like a truck and pretty good at banging and battling in the paint, Zach Randolph has made it apparent that he can take Blake off of his game. Zach may not be your conventionally effective defender at the four spot, but he plays his own brand of defensive effectiveness, which is very valuable in its own right. The wrestling matches that he engages his counterparts in are an absolute drain on their energy, and more often than not dig under their skin. Watching the opening night matchup, I was one step away from certain that these two were going to come to blows by the night’s end. Zbo excels in those types of situations, while until further notice, I am inclined to say that Blake is affected for the worse. Add to that the fact that Zbo’s got the Grindhouse behind him, and my say is:
Marc Gasol vs DeAndre Jordan:
In terms of overall basketball ability, I will hands down give the edge over to Marc Gasol in this one, but as far as matchups go, DeAndre Jordan will be a tougher draw for him than face value suggests. Jordan is incredibly long, dangerously athletic, and precisely the type of guy who can and will negate a whole number of shots taken by our below the rim style of play in the paint. However, if Marc can channel Jordan’s zealousness to negate shots to his advantage to get Jordan into foul trouble, which is entirely possible, it should greatly open up the game not only for himself, but Zbo as well.
*Matchup of the night* - It may seem a bit obscure to tout the bench matchup as the matchup to look out for, especially considering the powerful starting lineups that these two teams have, but I cannot overstate the importance that I believe the role of Darrell Arthur will have on this game. With the team depth restrained by the wide open hole left open at small forward, the rotation will likely be succinct as I do not expect Hollins to trust Josh Selby and Hamed Haddadi as more than stopgaps closing out quarters. In other words, a whole heck of a lot is going to come down to the play of Arthur, Mo Speights, and Jerryd Bayless. The Clippers on the other hand have one of the deepest veteran benches in the league, and just keep getting stronger. Eric Bledsoe is a defensive animal that is sure to drive Conley crazy, Jamal Crawford, TA’s real assignment tonight, is a scoring machine with a video game crossover, and the conglomerate of Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, and Ronny Turiaf provides unreal versatility to their frontcourt. I don’t even want to know the evil that this team’s depth is capable of if Chauncey Billups can get healthy in time to contribute down the stretch.
Advantage: Los Angeles