Five Takeaways: Rivers Provides Spark As Clippers Win Second Straight
LOS ANGELES – The Clippers (24-14) overcame a double-digit halftime deficit Wednesday against the Grizzlies (22-16), and for the second straight game, a determined second-half defensive effort guided them to victory.
Here are five takeaways from the Clippers’ 111-104 win.
1) Defense picks back up in 3rd quarter takeoff – Things looked dismal at the half, at which point the Grizzlies were shooting better than 53 percent and already had 63 points. The Clippers were coming off a performance against the Suns in which they forced their opponent to shoot worse than 40 percent for the first time since Nov. 9, and they all talked about afterward was how that side of the floor needed to stay consistent and accountable if they were to relieve their recent struggles, particularly while playing without some of their stars.
Then, much like their matchup against Phoenix in which they allowed just 40 second-half points, their defense ignited out of halftime. After trailing by 10 at the half and as many as 12 early in the third, the Clippers started making stops and couldn’t miss on their other end in the midst of a 24-6 run. The Clippers went 12-for-20 and outscored the Grizzlies by 14 points in the quarter to take control, then finished it off holding Memphis to 22 points or fewer in both the third and fourth quarters.
2) Rivers rides to season high – Austin Rivers exploded in the third quarter, guiding the way for the Clippers’ run. Rivers, earning another start, posted nine points and five assists in the quarter on his way to a season-high 28 points, while also tying season highs in assists (seven) and rebounds (four).
With the Clippers shorthanded again without Blake Griffin (knee) and Chris Paul (hamstring) – who could return as soon as Friday – Rivers played a team-high 44 minutes and took advantage. After his big third quarter, his runner in the lane as the clock ticked under two minutes and a following two free throws late in the fourth helped put the game away.
3) Back-to-back 20-rebound nights for DeAndre Jordan – The Clippers have missed having someone adept at finding DeAndre Jordan on rolls to the rim the way Chris Paul is, but Jamal Crawford had a knack for it Wednesday as he helped fill that void. All four of Crawford’s assists were finished around the rim by Jordan, who had another field day on the glass.
Jordan recorded 20 rebounds for the second straight game and for the third time in his last five games, finishing Wednesday with 18 points and 20 rebounds. His 35 career games with at least 20 rebounds ranks second among active players behind only Dwight Howard, and he’s pulled down at least 10 rebounds in eight straight games.
4) Clippers go small again – Despite facing a Memphis team with size, the Clippers stuck with a three-guard lineup of Austin Rivers, J.J. Redick and Raymond Felton in the starting lineup for the second straight night. And for a second straight game to start 2017, it resulted in a win.
The Clippers had to switch it up when Zach Randolph got going off the bench, bringing Marreese Speights in to combat Randolph’s size, but the three starting guards got plenty of work. Each played more than 36 minutes, while Crawford scored 22 points in 26 minutes off the bench. With Chris Paul (hamstring) nearing a return, they may get a chance to catch their breath soon.
5) New wrinkle to “Grit-n-Grind” – Both Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and DeAndre Jordan said before Wednesday’s game Memphis is still the type of team that’s earned the nickname “Grit-n-Grind” over the years for its ability to bully inside, slow the game down and bother teams defensively with their size, mostly because many of the pieces are still there.
But on Wednesday, it wasn’t the Grizzlies’ inside presence that caused early problems as much as what it was behind the arc. After making at least 10 3-pointers in a game just seven times last year, the Grizzlies have already done 17 times this season, including Wednesday when they hit 11. Memphis built a double-digit second quarter lead with nine 3-pointers in the first half alone and watched film of each at halftime. The Clippers held the Grizzlies to just two more the rest of the way.
What’s Next? – The Clippers head to Sacramento to play Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Kings.