The Clippers take on the Grizzlies in a fun matchup of the team with the worst record in the NBA and a team coming off two terrible performances. Get ready for a good one!
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
When: 12:30 PM PT
How to Watch: Bally Sports SoCal
Projected Starting Lineups
Grizzlies: Marcus Smart – Jacob Gilyard – Desmond Bane – Jaren Jackson Jr. – Bismack Biyombo
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Ivica Zubac
Grizzlies: Ja Morant Out (Suspension), Brandon Clarke Out (Achilles), Steven Adams Out (Knee), Derrick Rose Out (Knee), Xavier Tillman Questionable (Knee), Jake Laravia Out (G-League), Ziaire Williams Questionable (Hip)
Clippers: Mason Plumlee Out (Knee), Brandon Boston Jr. Out (Quad)
The Big Picture
Despite being 3-5 and having two of the most hideous losses of the NBA season so far, the Clippers somehow still boast a top 10 offense. There have been flickers of what their offense could look like in full sync with all of their stars humming together, but through three games those flickers have been few and far between. It’s still very early in the season, yet the Clippers do not have time to mess around – they need to figure this out much sooner than later. If they don’t, it will be hard for them to make up ground later in the season.
The Grizzlies are the only team in the NBA with just a single win. Their net rating of -6.1 is a bit better, as it ties them for 25th – they’re 1-8, but quite a few of their losses have been close. Looking at their injury list, it’s not hard to see why they’ve struggled, as those injuries don’t include the fact that other players like Luke Kennard and Santi Aldama missed multiple games with injuries as well. The Grizzlies do still have talent on their roster, notably the trio of Smart, Bane, and Jackson Jr., and are around league average on defense. Offense is where they struggle, with Bane really their only true consistent creator. It’s notable that Gilyard, a two-way guy with minimal NBA experience, and Biyombo, a solid vet but someone the Grizz signed off the couch a week or two ago, are both starting for Memphis. When guys start coming back the Grizzlies will improve, but they’re in a tough spot right now.
Play Hard: Integrating a player of James Harden’s caliber and style of play is not an easy or quick process. There were always going to be challenges and ups and downs. At some point, however, the Clippers need to show some pride and fight through their growing pains rather than succumbing to them. So far, they have not done so, instead folding at the first sign of adversity. It doesn’t seem like much to ask for consistent energy and effort from professional basketball players, but after the past three games that’s where we are at with the Clippers. Execute, don’t be sloppy, and play with force even when shots aren’t falling.
Move the Ball: The Clippers have passed the ball less than any other team in the NBA since Harden arrived. Now, Harden is a player who likes to ISO. So are Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook. However, when those guys are playing at their best, they use isolations to break down defenses, draw help, and engage ball movement until an open shot is found. So far, that has not been happening. The ball is getting passed once or not at all after being brought up, with no attempt to penetrate the lane or attack weak defensive spots. Jacob Gilyard is a guy who every Clippers’ starter should be able to overpower in one way or another, and they should hunt him from the beginning of the game. Maybe if they can draw help early and get into a rhythm with ball movement the offense will look cleaner.
Give Kobe a Shot: All we are saying, is give Kobe a chance. That out of the way, Kobe Brown is not someone who I’ve been impressed with as many Clippers’ fans. He has, however, demonstrated basic competence on offense and is willing to let fly from three. Kobe can also handle and pass at least a bit. The defense is a question mark, but he’s big and strong enough to bang in the post. And, really, he can’t be much worse than PJ Tucker has been. Realistically, both of them should be playing a bit with Mason out and, somehow, still no backup vet center signed to replace him. But I’d rather Kobe play than PJ at the four next to Zu when those minutes occur. So far, in 59 minutes for the Clippers, PJ has scored 5 points on 1-7 shooting (0-4 from three). By contrast, Robert Covington and Nic Batum, not offensive powerhouses by any stretch, have scored 17 and 20 points in 53 and 70 minutes respectively for the Sixers. PJ has rebounded well enough, but the defense and toughness are not worth the complete lack of offensive production or the clogged spacing he brings. Play him at the backup five for now, but Kobe should get minutes when Zu comes back in alongside the bench. If he’s unplayable, then he is. But giving him a look over PJ would be wise.