LOCATION:FedEx Forum, Memphis
MEDIA:Fox Sports South,Soul Classics 103.5 FM
Memphis(36-31) is on a two game losing streak and desperately needing a win to get back on track for the playoffs. Luckily for the Grizzlies neither the Jazz nor the Suns have been particularly hot lately either with neither team making up significant ground. If the Grizzlies are to make the playoffs this season the team has to win games like this the remainder of the season. The Grizzlies are needing a win also to redeem themselves for the performance in Miami.
Los Angeles(25-41) has struggled on the road all season. However the Clippers are 3-1 on their current five game road trip that ends in Memphis tonight. The Clippers have won 5 of their last six games as well. Blake Griffin has led the Clippers all season despite playing his first season in the NBA. The addition of Mo Williams has helped soften the loss of leading scorer Eric Gordon due to a fractured wrist.
The addition of Mo Williams has dramatically changed the Clippers. Los Angeles is 5-2 since his arrival and he is averaging 18 ppg and 6 apg since arriving. If he continues to play in this way he will definitely be worth the 2011 first round pick surrendered for him. The one negative has been Williams shooting. He’s hitting jsut 39.5% over the last five games. Mike Conley dished out 10 assists against the Heat but his 1-11 shooting and two total points broke a streak of 6 successive games scoring in double figures.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Randy Foye has finally found a home, for the time being at least. In his last 10 games the former Villanueva star is scoring 15.2 ppg and dishing out 5.3 apg. However, like Williams, Foye is not very efficient. His 40.5 FG% means he’s taking a lot of shots to reach that scoring total. That doesn’t bode well for his matchup against Tony Allen who is among the league leaders in steals and one of the best man on man defenders in the league. Allen is averaging 13.5 ppg as a starter and is hitting 54.4% from the floor but it’s his defense that makes him so valuable to the team.
Sam Young is fitting into his role as the #5 option among the Grizzlies roster but he understands even that position in temporary with Rudy Gay due to return sometime in the next two weeks. Young has reached double figures scoring only once in his last five games as teams have learned to be patient against Young and not to fall for his pump fake. Gomes has tried to help promote the Clippers scoring but like so many other Clippers his FG% has been terrible. Gomes has also reached double figures only once in his last five games but when Gomes scores more than 15 the Clippers are 7-2. Young is a strong defender however.
People should line up to see the battle of the PFs if not to cheer for their hometown team’s playoff push. Griffin and Z-Bo are two of the elite PFs in the league and since Memphis has Randolph solely because the Clippers had drafted Griffin it should be emotional for both players as well. Griffin won the Slam Dunk contest and was selected to the All-Star game this season. Randolph was named Player of the Month for January. In their previous meeting Griffin went for 19 pts and 11 boards while Randolph countered with 18 pts and 13 boards. Tough matchup but Z-Bo is at home and Griffin is playing his fifth straight road game.
Jordan still starts but Chris Kaman is pushing him after returning from his injury. Jordan is young and athletic averaging 1.7 blocks a game and hitting on 68% of his FG attempts. In March he is hitting an incredible 75.8% of his shots. Marc Gasol has struggled this season averaging under 12 ppg and fewer than 7 rpg, a career low for Gasol. As he nears free agency this summer Gasol will need to play better to force the Grizzlies to pay him more money. Perhaps Gasol is aware of this as he has reached double figures in 5 of his last six games. Not blessed with great physical talent, Gasol relies on his brains and hard work to produce.
When you have been in the lottery as long and as often as the Clippers you start to acquire a lot of household names on your bench. The Clippers have Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Willie Warren and Ike Diogu for name recognition but it’s been the return of Chris Kaman that has provided the most bang of late. Kaman is averaging 14 ppg and 7 rpg over the last 10 games and has made a strong argument that he should be starting ahead of Jordan. Memphis’ bench also has their big names that aren’t performing well in Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez but Darrell Arthur, Shane Battier and O J Mayo are the sparks for the Grizzlies bench and if they start playing well Memphis is a tough team to handle.