“They were faster, quicker, they played harder, they were clearly the tougher team,” Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said about the Memphis Grizzlies. “Honestly, they deserved to win the game.”
The young Memphis squad used their speed and accuracy behind the arc to oust the undermanned Clippers 140-114. Forward Paul George (hamstring tightness) and guard Patrick Beverley (sprained wrist) were sidelined with injuries. The two players combine for 30 points per game.
“Even if we lose again, you want to lose it the right way, from either a team just making tough shots, good plays or you just missed that night,” Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard. “It’s just about consistency.”
Leonard was one of three Clippers players that scored over 20 points this afternoon.
Center Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 28 points, center Ivica Zubac led with 11 rebounds. Forward Jae Crowder led the Grizzlies with 27 points and center Jonas Valanciunas made 12 rebounds.
Memphis found much success behind the arc, shooting at 46.2 percent, twice the percentage of the Clippers. The Grizzlies also had a demanding defensive presence with eight steals and 10 blocks.
The Grizzlies now have a 14-22 overall record, the team was coming off of a 123-128 loss to the Sacramento Kings`.
“Just to get back to it and come out with energy against one of the top in the west, it’s huge,” said Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson jr., who scored 24 points in the matchup.
The Clippers were playing catch-up in the early minutes as Crowder made three-pointers. Leonard experienced a bout of poor shooting, going 2-9 from the field. Subbing in Lou Williams and Harrell gave the Clippers much need points but did little to keep Memphis from landing threes.
“We had a big first quarter,” Crowder said. “I just think we did a better job just getting out on transition, pushing the tempo of the game and the way we wanted to play.”
As the second quarter progressed, the Clippers chipped away at the deficit with Harrell and Williams, but the Grizzlies beefed up their paint protection. Valanciunas presented an effective defense against Harrell, draining their offensive energy.
Memphis made an eight-point run to begin the third quarter, their bigs blocked the Clippers shots and held them to a double-digit deficit. Williams and guard Landry Shamet created scoring opportunities as Harrell would get double-teamed. Memphis forward Brandon Clarke ignited an 11-point run with 1:42 left in the third quarter, the Grizzlies reached the 100-point mark soon after.
“To come out in the third quarter and to set a tone with another 30-plus quarter, holding them to 23 points, I thought our defensive activity was unbelievable,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. “Our defensive activity was huge. I am super proud of our guys.”
Harrell came into the fourth quarter with new energy, going on a seven-point run. After attempting to dunk on Valanciunas, the two centers earned a technical foul each and Valanciunas was benched. Forward Jaren Jackson Jr countered his efforts with close-range shots and an alley oop fed to him by guard Ja Morant.
“We’re not a great team,” Harrell said. “That’s what we need to realize and wake up. We’re a team that still has to figure out things to win night in and night out.”
The Clippers return right back into action as they play the New York Knicks on Sunday, January 5 at 12:30 PM in the Staples Center.