The Clippers restored the natural order of the Western Conference, handling the Grizzlies in Memphis, 119-99, to salvage a 1-1 split. For the full game recap of the Clippers’ win over the Grizzlies, keep reading below.

Clippers Defeat Grizzlies, 119-99

It’s amazing what you can do with a little more pop.

Pushed by a one-sided loss in a listless effort on the first night of this two-game set, the Clippers submitted a more convincing performance to hold down the Grizzlies, 119-99. It wasn’t flawless, but it was good enough to book their sixth win on the second night of a back-to-back in six tries this season.

Last night’s contest was decided in the paint, with the young Grizzlies rolling downhill through a Clipper squad loathe to slow them. Tonight’s contest was much the same, just vice-versa, as Kawhi Leonard led a north-south charge that caved in the Memphis defense and created an incontrovertible math problem.

That problem, for the Grizzlies, is that when the Clippers invaded the paint they created open looks for themselves from beyond the arc. The Clippers failed to convert those looks early, but as they found their rhythm through frequent repetition they found their range.

Tyronn Lue’s side won every quarter, but it was the decisive second when they ignited enough to start pulling away. Leveraging an active Memphis defense with the extra pass, the Clippers recorded 34 assists, a resounding improvement over last night’s meager total of 19. Those open looks combined with a little positive regression to earn the Clippers two more made threes with just one extra try, good for an almost 5% bump in conversion rate.

The Clippers’ aggressive attack was spearheaded by — who else? — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. George led the game with eight assists, and his activity was usually timed to stem a Memphis run. But it was Kawhi who put in the dominant work, carrying the offense for long stretches and holding the rampaging Grizzlies at arm’s length. Kawhi scored a game-high 30 on the strength of three makes from deep and 11 free throws in as many attempts. His nine rebounds and seven assists rounded out his night, with four turnovers the lone blemish.

It was the turnovers (17) that kept the Grizzlies close, even as the Clippers looked ready to bounce up and away and into their flight. Every time the game looked primed to break open, the Clippers would put two, three, four empty possessions together, often setting their opponents off in a sprint the other way. The Grizzlies, relentless as ever, rarely failed to pounce on the opportunity.

Led by Ja Morant, who struggled from the field but was a dynamo in transition, and Jonas Valanciunas, who treats the paint like a bear would a phone booth, the Grizzlies did enough interior damage to stay in this one until late. But determined as the Grizzlies were, the Clippers’ increased activity dampened their inside dominance measurably. Memphis earned 18 fewer points in the paint than they had 24 hours earlier.

And, fortunately for the Clippers, the Grizzlies went cold from everywhere else. The floaters and midrange jumpers that found the bottom of the net 24 hours earlier suddenly drew iron instead. With their outside shot harried by more fervent Clipper closeouts, the Grizzlies scuffled to a 32% mark from deep. The Grizzlies still found their way into the paint plenty, they just didn’t earn the same return on their investment. It’s a simple math problem.

With the Clippers offense unlocked again, the ball bounced between hands democratically. Seven Clippers recorded double-digit marks in scoring, including all five starters. Each starter recorded at least three assists.

Serge Ibaka was the best role player, attacking off closeouts and distributing out of space on the pick and roll. His emphatic block of Valanciunas was emblematic of his team’s renewed defensive vigor. The box score lies a little — Serge was really good.

Patrick Beverley and Nic Batum each added three three-pointers, as they do. Lou Williams continued his surge to the All-Star break with 17 points to pace the reserves. He, Ivica Zubac, and Terance Mann are forming quite the three-man wrecking crew.

Mann, you ask? All he did was play one of his most impressive games, in context. He continued to show off new skills, like a no-look find from the post, and more refined examples of old ones, like his silky pull-up jumper. I haven’t mentioned Marcus Morris Sr. yet because, frankly, Mann was better tonight. Much better.

De’Anthony Melton led Memphis reserves with 24 minutes and 16 points, one night after earning only 3 minutes of run. If he had been in the dog house, he showed tonight why he’s too good to keep there. Kyle Anderson moved quickly enough to bag five steals. Dillon Brooks scored 11 and had at least three prayers answered.

The Clippers returned to their identity and to the win column, and just in time. A Sunday matinee in Milwaukee on national TV awaits.

Thomas Wood

Thomas Wood

Writing about the Clippers since 2014 and also since 2019.

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