It wasn’t pretty, but the LA Clippers (34-33) finally picked up their first win post-All-Star break with a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies, 135-129. Paul George was spectacular for LAC with 42 points (12-23 FG, 4-9 3PT, 14-15 FT), 11 rebounds and three assists. Coming up huge in the clutch, Kawhi Leonard added in 34 points (15 in the fourth), 10 rebounds and four assists. Tyus Jones put up an elite stat line for Memphis (38-25) with 25 points (9-14 FG, 5-7 3PT), 12 assists, five steals and zero turnovers. Read on for our full recap of the Clippers’ win over the Grizzlies.
The horn sounded, the ball was tipped and David Roddy immediately stripped Marcus Morris Sr. for a coast-to-coast dunk. It became very apparent in the first quarter just how much younger the Grizzlies were, yet it was the Clippers who had allowed eight points off of four turnovers. Otherwise, the Clippers actually did a great job on the glass, outrebounding Memphis 15-7 to open up four additional looks. Unfortunately, the story of the frame was that Senior once again was just flat-out bad out there. Despite the Clippers getting him involved early, Morris Sr. missed his usual array of jumpers and was hunted mercilessly on defense, with his man drawing two often being the catalyst for Memphis’ attack. The rotations off the bench remained the same with Eric Gordon, Nicolas Batum, Mason Plumlee and Terance Mann all getting some burn. The birthday boy, Plumdog Millionaire, was active in a hurry, doing a nice job of exploiting the Grizzlies’ lack of emergency depth inside. Luke Kennard checked in late, soon receiving both a tribute video and an open look from deep. After a back-and-forth opening frame, the Clippers led 30-28.
In the battle of the reserve minutes, Paul George and Eric Gordon took the kids to school (“kids” mainly being Ziaire Williams), with both combining for 22 points in the period. Once again, however, the concerns were on the defensive end of the court as Memphis’ activity around the top of the arc often led to Xavier Tillman getting wide-open layups inside or Luke being free for shooting practice. Morris Sr. once again got the nod to close, which resulted in another stint of him missing jumpers and being hunted on defense. Through two, the Clippers held a 67-61 lead at the break.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Clippers gave up a 51-point quarter in what was a 27-point turnaround. The collapse was as terrible to watch as it sounded. LAC opened up the frame with Batum starting over Morris Sr., a move that appeared to pay off right away as the Clippers got out to a 5-0 run and prompted a quick Taylor Jenkins timeout. As play wore on, however, the Clippers went cold from the field, turned the ball over repeatedly and, soon enough, the triples that weren’t going down for Memphis started to and then some. Tyus Jones became a flamethrower before his amped teammates followed suit, snapping off an arena-silencing run that once again made it feel like the game was over for the Clippers in a flash. Heading into the fourth, the Grizzlies led 112-97.
By way of huge rebounding and steadiness at the free-throw line, the Clippers proved they were finally worthy of a win the rest of the way. LAC played Memphis about even through the first three minutes of the frame, with the risk of rolling Plumlee, Russell Westbrook and Morris Sr. out there paying off somewhat well offensively. From then on, however, the lineup of Westbrook-EG-PG-Kawhi-Morris Sr., for whatever reason, got the job done. The Clippers were able to switch everything and the help defense was there consistently as JJJ, Jones and Bane whiffed one by one on their drives with PG and Kawhi covering up the backline. Over seven-and-a-half minutes, the Clippers held Memphis to just two points. Meanwhile, the 213-duo caught fire in the mid-range, as well as muscled their way to the Grizzlies’ interior at will. At one point, things did start to get uncomfortably familar for a bit as Bane and Kennard broke loose for a quick 6-0 punch and the Grizzlies started to leave Westbrook to swarm PG/Kawhi on the ball. Fortunately, the rebounding and free throw-making were there to stave off another heartbreak. The Clippers became the first team to win after giving up 50 points in a quarter since 1991.
Clippers vs. Grizzlies Game Notes
- Same Minutes, Same Problems: The Clippers outrebounded the Grizzlies by 32, the biggest disparity in Memphis’ franchise history. The Clippers also shot 33-35 from the charity stripe. The Clippers got the win. Awesome. But, it’s hard not to bring up how bad of a game this feels from a process standpoint considering they gave up 26 points off of 17 turnovers, got burned in the fast break 26 to 9, and still somehow played Morris Sr. more minutes (25) than each of Batum (17), Terance Mann (18) and Robert Covington (DNP-CD). Specifically from a rotations standpoint, it remains baffling to have these defensive options just sitting there when depth was touted as one of the team’s strong suits heading into the year. Particularly in the third quarter, when Plumlee was being targeted endlessly in the pick-and-roll, the Clippers maybe could’ve tried going small with RoCo but I guess that’s still just a non-starter.
- Clippers’ Big 3 Delivers: Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac went huge for the Clippers tonight. Seriously though, I was thoroughly impressed again with Ivica Zubac’s ability to rebound and defend the rim without fouling. Zu was limited to only playing 17 minutes in this one (he played 28 in the loss to Minnesota), and you could truly see the Clippers’ level of cohesion fall off drastically for stretches in this one. With PG and Kawhi, this one was just everything Clippers fans have been begging to see more of from them. Together in the same game, both played at that high bar that the basketball world has long expected from them — something that has felt far too rare this season.
- Norm No. 2?: With Norman Powell down, it appears the decision to have “two Norms” is starting to show its worth with Eric Gordon bringing that traditional sixth man scoring juice in this one. EJ was awesome tonight, driving to the rim at his own pace, providing deep floor-spacing for the stars and overall serving as a steady hand off the bench. Although Kennard was awesome for Memphis tonight, Gordon definitely showed his value tonight as well.
Up Next: The Clippers will host the Toronto Raptors at Crypto.com Arena on Wednesday, March 8, at 7 p.m. PT.
213Hoops is an independently owned and operated L.A. Clippers blog by Clippers fans, for Clippers fans. If you enjoy our content, please consider subscribing to our Patreon. Subscriptions start at $1 a month and support from readers like you goes a long way towards helping us keep 213Hoops sustainable, growing, and thriving.