Clippers Team Meeting Spurs Victory Over Grizzlies
Los Angeles - Behind closed doors away from media and fans, the Clippers talked openly with each other, being honest about the team’s recent shortcoming and what must be done to fix them.
Every player in the locker room spoke before their game against the Grizzlies, voicing opinions and observations, a rare moment of self-reflection in an NBA season.
“Sometimes you’ve got to scrap the film, scrap the walk through and just talk,” said Blake Griffin. “Let guys get some frustrations out and talk about what they are seeing.”
Starting the season with an NBA best 14-2 record, the Clippers hit an unprecedented rough patch, going 25-24 since. Clippers’ stars Griffin and Chris Paul have missed a combined 41 games this season, and while an obvious impediment, the two have lost time to injuries previously. In the past, when one of Griffin or Paul was sidelined for an extended time, the Clippers stayed competitive, continuing to win much more than they lost. This recent stretch of mundane, ordinary play is new.
“It was just a good team discussion about what we want to be and what we need to do,” said Doc Rivers. “They knew we weren’t playing well and we needed to put a finger on it.”
The Clippers responded by playing one of their most complete games of the season, trouncing the Grizzlies 114-98. The Clippers’ defense suffocated the Grizzlies, clogging the paint and rotating with precision, not allowing Memphis to make a three pointer till three minutes left in the third quarter. Chris Paul and the stable of Clippers’ guards forced Grizzlies’ star Mike Conley into an uncomfortable game, shooting three of 14 from the field.
“When you look at the beginning of the year, we were leading the league in steals and deflections, and then it all went away. Tonight, was the first night in a long time we saw that again,” said Rivers.
After being manhandled by the Timberwolves on the glass, the Clippers out-rebounded the the Grizzlies by 20, and after every miss the Clippers ran, with Rivers imploring the team to constantly push their pace. Rivers complimented the guards’ commitment to rebounding in the game, which lead to quicker offensive sets.
“Guys like Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Raymond Felton, they hit us from so many angles,” said Tony Allen, Grizzlies guard.
The victory was a complete team effort, shooting 52-percent collectively as a group. Austin Rivers scored a game-high 20 points, driving to the rim at will and shooting an efficient 70-percent from the field. Blake Griffin flirted with a triple-double accumulating 14 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists, and Chris Paul scored 19 points and delivered 7 assists.
Currently sitting in the fifth seed, the victory places Los Angeles three games ahead of Oklahoma City and two games behind Utah, their opponent Monday.
Forcing their words to become a reality, the Clippers’ spirit returned to the locker room. Players recognized the importance of following up a team meeting with a strong performance, but they also recognize the emptiness if they regress the next game.
“The communication was better,” said Paul. I’m interested to see if it’s like that on Saturday.”
The Clippers play the 76ers next.