Clips Set For Rival With NBA’s Best Record

Rowan Kavner

MEMPHIS – Few pleasantries will be exchanged as the Clippers (7-4) and the Grizzlies (11-2) meet for the first time this season in a rivalry that’s grown since the 2012 playoffs. 

The Clippers knocked the Grizzlies out of the conference quarterfinals following the 2011-12 season, and the Grizzlies returned the favor in the same round of the playoffs the next year.  The two teams didn’t meet in the playoffs last year, but there were three heated regular season matchups resulting in two Clippers losses. 

“Any time you play a team in the playoffs, then there’s a rivalry,” said Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. “Or maybe it’s not a rivalry, but it’s something extra. Same thing with us and Golden State, same thing with us and Memphis.”

Rivers didn’t begin coaching the Clippers until 2013, but he knew the recent history between the teams and it didn’t take long for him to see the relationship, or lack thereof. 

“I think because it’s a team with a bunch of bigs that are physical, I think it can become a very physical, nasty game,” Rivers said. “A hatred thing, I’m not so sure.”

The Clippers enter the matchup on a two-game winning streak, while the Grizzlies own the NBA’s best record and have won five of their last six games. Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Courtney Lee are all averaging at least 13 points per game for Memphis this year, and the Grizzlies are holding opponents to 92.5 points per game. 

Rivers said he’s not one for calling any regular season matchup a “measuring stick game,” but he did add that it’s fun to play in these kinds of games. 

“That’s what I always say,” he said. “I just like playing games like this, because it’s one game, but it has meaning. The meaning is you beat a good team.”


Clippers 110Heat 93: The Clippers have started their road trip on fire, and it’s not just because they were playing the Heat. The Clippers swept their Florida trip, beating both the Magic and the Heat by at least 17 points and stepping up the defensive effort. The Lob City magic was on full display in Miami, leading to 12 assists for Chris Paul, who also had 26 points in the win. 

Grizzlies 117Celtics 100: Marc Gasol recorded his third 20-point game in his last four contests, leading the Grizzlies with 32 points. Zach Randolph contributed 16 rebounds and 16 points and Jon Leuer came off the bench for 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes. 


Blake Griffin vs. Zach Randolph: The power forwards are starting strong once again, with Griffin averaging 23 points and seven rebounds a game and Randolph averaging 16 points and 12 boards. Griffin finished with at least 23 points in two of the three matchups against the Grizzlies last year, serving as the Clippers’ leading scorer in those two games. He had 28 points and 13 rebounds the last time these teams met in a Clippers loss, while Randolph finished with 21 and 11, respectively. 

Rivers said Griffin is beginning to find his way offensively, and Rivers isn’t worried about Randolph or any Grizzlies player trying to get into Griffin’s head. “He’s a grown man,” Rivers said. “Blake played terrific against Memphis last year, so I don’t think that’s a worry.”


• Home Court Advantage – The Grizzlies are 7-0 at home and 7-0 against the Western Conference this season. They’ve now won a franchise-record 21 consecutive regular season home games dating back to Feb. 2014. 

“I don’t know yet, because I haven’t been against them in the playoffs, but I think every good team has a home advantage,” Rivers said. “When you play a good team at home, it’s hard to beat them. So they’d be hard to beat.”

• Under The Weather – Griffin and a couple Clippers dealt with some stomach issues earlier this year, but the virus in Memphis has been much worse. Five Grizzlies players were ruled out Wednesday against Toronto in Memphis’ only loss in its last six games. Tony Allen also had to miss the Celtics game, but the Grizzlies won easily.  


The Clippers have the third best assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA, while the Grizzlies rank ninth … The Grizzlies are shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line this year…Memphis ranks in the top five in defensive efficiency in the league, allowing only 98 points per 100 possessions … Two of the last three Clippers opponents have featured players from a 2013 trade between Orlando and Milwaukee that saw Redickleave the Magic and Tobias Harris go to the Magic. The Grizzlies’ Beno Udrih also went to Orlando in that trade….