If only for a brief moment over the first two or three weeks of the season, the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers appeared as if they could survive without the key cogs that led them to the playoffs last season. Although both squads have experienced much more disappointment since their first meeting, the Clippers attempt to build off their most impressive win of the season when they visit the Grizzlies on Saturday.
Los Angeles bolted to a 4-0 start despite losing Chris Paul in the offseason and was still 5-2 on Nov. 4 when it hosted Memphis, which held the Clippers to 4-of-26 beyond the arc in a 113-104 victory. That setback began a nine-game losing streak for Los Angeles, which is coming off Friday’s surprising 128-118 victory at the Houston Rockets to improve to 5-7 without the injured Blake Griffin. Shortly after improving to 6-3 with their early November win at the Staples Center, the Grizzlies went on an 11-game slide that contributed to the firing of coach David Fizdale. Memphis, which lost its own star this offseason when Zach Randolph bolted in free agency, lost for the eighth time in nine tries Thursday as the Phoenix Suns’ Troy Daniels - a former Grizzlie - hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to send Memphis to a 97-95 defeat.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), FSN Southeast (Memphis)
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (13-18): Austin Rivers (15.4 points) and Lou Williams (20.2), who are both enjoying career years, combined for 68 points and 13-of-26 shooting beyond the arc in Friday’s triumph, as Rivers exploded for a career-high 36 points and Williams poured in 32 off the bench. Williams, who entered the game leading the league in bench scoring (19.1 points), topped the 30-point mark for the third time in December and has posted a NBA-best five such performances from a reserve. Starting point guard Milos Teodosic (8.3 points, 4.6 assists) was rested Friday but will return Saturday; the 30-year has scored more than eight points only twice in five outings since returning from a 22-game absence due to a foot injury.
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (9-23): Marc Gasol (18.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 blocks) is one of two players in the league (along with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo) to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks, but the three-time All-Star is listed as doubtful for Saturday with a left hip injury. Assuming Gasol sits, Tyreke Evans (18.4 points) will be the only healthy Grizzlies’ player averaging at least 10 points, as Mike Conley (17.1) remains without a definite timetable in his return from an Achilles’ injury. Evans is enjoying his finest offensive season since his rookie year in 2009-10, scoring in double figures in 28 games - including 13 20-point efforts.
1. Ten of the last 14 and 14 of the Grizzlies’ last 20 opponents have shot at least 40 percent from 3-point range.
2. Jordan leads the NBA with seven 20-rebound games.
3. Memphis is 2-18 without Conley this season and 0-17 when shooting a lower percentage from the field than its opponent.
PREDICTION: Clippers 105, Grizzlies 97