The Clippers came on strong in the fourth, but the Grizzlies were able to hold on to the win, 94-85. Here’s Andrew Han breaking down what it means:
The Clippers didn’t do a whole lot right versus the Grizzlies in a 94-85 loss. But that’s not where we’re starting. We’re beginning with the key positive from the game: the Clippers, with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter, managed to cut a 17 point Memphis lead to 3 points. Within that 19-5 run, a lineup of Paul-Bledsoe-Butler-Griffin-
Of course, the problem was that the Clippers were down 17 points. They needed to expend so much energy making up the deficit that, when the lead was in sight, the Clippers couldn’t get over the top (I’m going to set aside the fact that Mo Williams didn’t play as Tony Allen also sat. No point in arguing hypothetical lineups).
The Grizzlies shot 50% from the field and outrebounded the Clippers 48-36, but those weren’t the most troubling things. The Clippers looked disinterested for large portions of the game: poor box outs, confusion on offense. Several times wing players would get the ball off of kick outs, only to pump fake and drive into a recovered Memphis defense. By the time the offense was reset, the shot clock would force the Clippers into poor shooting situations (the Clippers’ wing platoon of Foye/Young/Butler was a combined 7-29). Even on good defensive nights (good for the team, anyway) the Clippers cannot survive so much offensive indecision and hesitation. That is the one area, no matter how predictable, that the Clippers can really hang their hat.
Maybe we would be talking about a well-earned victory now instead of a deflating defeat if the Clippers had understood the importance of this game before it was too late. Even Vinny Del Negro understood that there was a statement to be made; that it was a playoff game, of sorts (and I’m no Vinny apologist). If you look at the box score, Del Negro shortened the bench to what one would expect in the post season, only going 8 players deep. He even had the prudence to leave DeAndre Jordan in when Jordan received his fourth foul 19 seconds into the third quarter.
But, even in this loss, you could see why Kevin Arnovitz and DJ Foster feel comfortable facing the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. Despite the Grizzlies good shooting night, they were still only 30.8% from deep. And as apathetically as the Clippers played, they climbed to within 3 points against a very good Memphis defense. The Clippers are not turnover prone despite the fact that the Grizzlies are very good at causing turnovers. And losing the rebounding battle? The Clippers actually rank higher in rebounding rate (tied for 3rd vs. Memphis’ tied for 11th). Heck, DeAndre Jordan had 10 offensive rebounds tonight!
It’s possible we’ll learn that the recent 8 wins out of 9 games was an aberration and the Clippers are more like the 6-10 team before that. But these next few games (at OKC, at MIN) will present a clearer picture and they’re no less important. Win or lose, the intensity has to be there. So enjoy that last part of the compliment sandwich, because we’ll soon find out what the Clippers are packing on a game-to-game basis.