The remade Clippers face off against the Grizzlies in the last game before the NBA trade deadline. Keep reading for a full preview of the Clippers’ contest against the Grizzlies.
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
When: 5:00 PM PT
How to Watch: Bally Sports SoCal
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Norman Powell – Nic Batum – Marcus Morris – Ivica Zubac
Grizzlies: Ja Morant – Desmond Bane – Ziaire Williams – Jaren Jackson Jr. – Steven Adams
Clippers: Kawhi Leonard Out (ACL), Paul George Out (Elbow), Jason Preston Out (Foot), Jay Scrubb Out (Toe)
Grizzlies: Dillon Brooks Out (Ankle), Killian Tillie Out (Back), Santi Aldama Out (Foot), Yves Pons Out (Thigh)
The Big Picture
Coming off a fantastic trade on Friday, the Clippers got blown out by the Bucks on Sunday night, but that had more to do with the Bucks looking like contenders than the Clippers playing badly. New Clips Norman Powell and Robert Covington played well, and will only get more comfortable as the season goes along. The Clippers are 27-28, but despite the below .500 record are firmly in the play-in. The Blazers are pivoting to tanking, the Kings are miserable, and the Thunder and Rockets are trying to lose. They should try to stay ahead of the Lakers and Pelicans if possible, but there’s little risk of them falling out of the play-in, even if Paul George and Kawhi Leonard do miss the rest of the season. With other injuries and COVID-19 outbreaks behind them, the Clippers can hopefully develop some rhythm down the stretch.
The 37-18 Grizzlies are the most shocking team in the NBA this season. Projected to be a solid play-in team, the Grizzlies are the clear 3rd seed 55 games in, and nothing about that looks like a fluke. They are led by first-time All Star Ja Morant, one of the most fun players to watch in the league and an unstoppable force driving to the rim. However, lost in the (rightful) love for Ja is that Jaren Jackson Jr. has made a huge leap on the defensive end, while Desmond Bane is a leading candidate for Most Improved Player. Not just that, but the Griz have a bevy of rotation players that keep the team afloat during injuries and off days. Hey might not have quite the upside of the Nets or Warriors, but they’re a highly competent and dangerous team that is close to a lock for a top-four spot in the Conference.
Starting Powell: Norm Powell showed in his first game as a Clipper why he’s immediately the best offensive player on the team with Leonard and George out. He scored 28 points on 16 shots, made four threes, and got to the line seven times in just 24 minutes – and even dished four assists. While he won’t always be that hot shooting the ball, his ability to get to the rim and make off the dribble threes put him alone with Reggie Jackson as guys who can do both on a semi-consistent basis (and he clearly has more juice than Reggie going downhill). With how badly the Clippers’ starters are offensively, it’s clear Powell will need to start at some point. The question is when. I would lean towards it happening sooner than later, possibly even tonight. He’s going to be a starter (presumably) long-term, and getting him reps with those key players is also important.
Play Zu: Ivica Zubac played only 19 minutes against the Bucks despite playing well. Now, some of that was due to the game turning into a blowout in the second half. But still, Big Zu plays just 24.1 minutes per game as the team’s best and most complete center (by far), and his minutes dwindled significantly in January (22.1 minutes) compared to over 25 in November and December. Ty Lue’s decision to play all three of his centers has not just eaten into Isaiah Hartenstein’s minutes (bad), it has also slashed Zu’s (worse). Serge Ibaka has played much better as of late, and is a solid backup center, but he’s worse than the other two, much older, and stimulates the offense less. It’s possible that the Clippers were playing Serge to shop him for the trade deadline, and if so, all this is fine. But whether Serge plays over Hart or not, Zu simply has to play more.
Matching Up: The Grizzlies are an interesting team in that they play with two legitimate big men but also play up-tempo and dominate in transition. The Clippers don’t have a great option for Ja Morant, but probably don’t want Reggie Jackson on him. Norm Powell, if he starts, would be a likely choice, as might Amir Coffey or Nic Batum. Reggie is also not an option for Desmond Bane or the big men, but could have a good hiding spot on Ziaire Williams, who is mostly just a spot-up shooter. Again though, where the Grizzlies excel is in forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, and that creates cross-matchups. The Clippers need to be careful to not get a big man on Ja, or a smaller guard on Jackson or Adams, because they will get punished every time by the Grizzlies.
That about does it for this preview of the Clippers’ game against the Grizzlies. Leave your comments below!