After dropping their season opener to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, the Clippers are back in action Saturday evening for their home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies. The game is at 7:30 PST, and will be televised on Bally Sports.
Despite the loss in their opener, there were several positive takeaways that the Clippers hope to carry into Saturday's matchup. To begin, Paul George was exactly who the team needs him to be. Despite not getting a single free throw attempt, George still poured in 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists on 52% from the field and 46% from deep. George was also a +3 in a game the Clippers lost by two points, so the team was unsurprisingly better when he was on the court.
Against a Memphis Grizzlies team that is hoping to continue their ascension, the Clippers will likely need a similar performance from Paul George in order to secure their first win. The Grizzlies proved last season that they were ahead of schedule, when they beat the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament to advance to the NBA playoffs. Much of this was due to the heroics of Ja Morant, and he has picked up right where he left off last season.
In the Grizzlies' first game of the season, Ja Morant exploded for 36 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists on 17/29 shooting. This performance was in route to a 132-121 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the win, Memphis also got 20-point performances from De'Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane.
As it pertains to Saturday's matchup with the Clippers, the Grizzlies will be without 5th year G/F Dillon Brooks. After suffering a fracture in his left hand, Brooks is out for an extended period of time while he recovers. This is a substantial loss for the Grizzlies, who really saw Brooks evolve as a player last season.
For the Clippers, their injury report looks similar to the way it will for a while. Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and Jason Preston remain out with injuries, and Keon Johnson is once again questionable with an illness. After missing the opener due to personal reasons, veteran forward Nicolas Batum is expected to rejoin the team for Saturday's home opener.
One trend to look at ahead of this matchup between the Clippers and Grizzlies, is the center battle. After the opener against Golden State, Clippers head coach Ty Lue said that it is hard to play his traditional centers against them because they play so quick, and often play small. Ivica Zubac only played 17 minutes against the Warriors, and Isaiah Hartenstein did not see the floor. The Memphis Grizzlies' starting center is Steven Adams, who played 31 minutes in their opener, so expect the Clippers to utilize their big men in this matchup much more than they did against the Warriors.
In a Western Conference that projects to be heavily contested with several quality teams, each game is vital for the Clippers who hope to position themselves firmly in the playoff picture by the time Kawhi Leonard is ready to return. While it is unclear when that will be, all current signs point towards it being sometime this season. The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the teams that expects to be competing for a playoff spot, so Saturday's game between these two teams should feature a high level of intensity.