When: Monday, November 18th, 9:30 PM CST
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
In the words of 3 Shades of Blue‘s post-game maestro Matt Noe last night, “break out the pacifiers and the sandbox toys, it’s Clipper time.” The Grizzlies are set to return to the Staples Center tonight for the second time in four days amid an unforgiving four game west coast road trip. Thanks to a little re-modeling by the hand of new Clippers coach Doc Rivers, it will feel like a whole new building, though, as the Lakers championship banners that decorate the arena on a nightly basis are now obscured by snapshots of the Clips’ core group for their home games. Sparks are bound to fly as they normally do when the Clippers and Grizz take the floor, regardless of the context surrounding the battle. The Grizz had to fight awfully hard through the stretch of that Kings game, but there are certainly some encouraging signs that have emerged in the first half of this road trip, as they look to mount some upward momentum. Can’t let our nemeses kill our buzz!
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Chris Paul
Tough matchup on the way for Conley tonight, but he’s got plenty of experience against Paul under his belt from the past two playoff runs. Paul has gone assist-crazy to start the year, while Conley has been more scoring-oriented than he has in the past. 19 and 9 last night for Conley, with three from the land of plenty to boot, rounding out what has been an impressive first ten games, but as much as it hurts to say as a Grizzlies’ fan, Paul is arguably the best point guard in the game and playing in his own building on a day of rest.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Tony Allen vs JJ Redick
The consistent analysis of commentators (seemingly) worldwide shoving the “Doc loves having JJ Redick to fill the Ray Allen role” narrative down our throats may be obnoxious to continuously hear, but that’s not to take away from the fact that it’s probably more true than we’d like to admit. Redick’s play has been nothing short of admirable in his new home. On our side of the lines, Tony Allen has had an awesome run on the offensive end to start the season as a surprisingly efficient force, but whether or not it is a function of his offensive attention, his lockdown defense has suffered and he’s had trouble staying at home on lights out shooters. Interesting matchup here, and fighting the fear of being controversial, I’m going to favor the dark side.
Advantage: Los Angeles
Tayshaun Prince vs Jared Dudley
Sometimes I feel like I’m on an island in this sense, but I’ve had myself firmly planted in Tayshaun’s corner since this young season began. His play has been spotty, but he looks to be on the upswing for the time being. I feel for the guy with every “aw shucks” hop that he does when his jumper clanks off the rim… which has been happening quite a bit, but his effort is never suspect on the defensive end, and he’s always trying to make the right play. His nine rebounds and four assists against Sacramento were a step in the right direction. Jared Dudley enters this one in a funk, shooting just 34.6% from the floor and 14.3% from three through his past five games.
Zach Randolph vs Blake Griffin
This matchup is just great each and every time they square off. Even when Blake’s athleticism gets the better of ol’ Zbo, this one is chock full of entertainment. Speaking of ol’ Zbo, that’s exactly what we’ve had the pleasure of watching of late, as he’s kicked off this road trip on a roll averaging 25 and 10.5 (points and rebounds) over the first two games. Now to be fair in a couple of senses, Zach benefit from having the post defensive prowess of Travis Outlaw with the responsibility to check him, and Blake has been having a renaissance year as noted by TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz last week, while basically averaging those aforementioned Zbo numbers on the season as a whole. But I’m a shameless homer, so:
Marc Gasol vs Deandre Jordan
Marc Gasol has emerged as somewhat of a whipping boy so far this season as a scapegoat for the team’s early struggles — admittedly some of it deserved, but a large part not so much. While Zach was vintage Zach through the past two, Marc has been Mr. Almost-Triple-Double, posting nearly identical consecutive lines of 18-8-8 and 19-8-9, respectively. Deandre Jordan is having himself a good year so far, ranking second among starting players in rebound rate (“the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds“), and is clocking in at fifth in the league in blocks per game. His athleticism can prove to be a pain in the behind for Gasol, but he was wholly ineffective against the Grizzlies in the playoffs last year and Marc has the savvy to catch him guilty of being overzealous looking for blocks.
Going into the year, the Grizzlies’ bench was believed to be on the fast track to grand improvement, with a few new toys in tow and potential breakout seasons in store for the returning members. Ten games in and the promise has yet to be realized, as it has by and large been the starters carrying the Grizz in their victories, while Coach Joerger is still tinkering with the rotations as he tries to evaluate what he’s working with. Quincy Pondexter, Nick Calathes, Mike Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis, and Kosta Koufos have all had their moments, but its tough to work in 11 guys a game. At this point, the bench guys are still trying to figure out what is to be expected of them on the nightly, and we have no idea what to expect out of them at this juncture. Looks like I left little time for the Clippers’ bench here, but they’re pretty darn good. The Clips are averaging 40.1 points per game from their second unit, good for third in the league. For comparison’s sake, the Grizzlies rank 26th with 27.4 per contest, per HoopsStats. Until further notice, the Clippers’ bench takes this one in a landslide.
Advantage: Los Angeles