Before the start of the Clippers' afternoon matchup against the Grizzlies, Doc Rivers was vocal in his opposition to day games.
"I hate afternoon games," Rivers said pregame. "Afternoon games are tough, and I've always thought it's tougher for the home team because you have your rituals you have your way, and to me you give it all up when you're at home now because now you're out of sorts. You can't eat your lunch at the same time, you can't prepare.
"I thought as a player, you get in the middle of the game, sometimes the game’s in the fourth quarter and you feel like ‘oh I'm waking up’. Sometimes you play great, it's just hard, I just think it's an inconsistent day when you have these."
The Clippers lived up to their coach's worst nightmare, showing almost no energy through the first three quarters against a young and feisty Memphis team. They weren't even close enough to make things interesting with a brief fourth-quarter jolt, eventually losing 140-114.
Buoyed by some hot shooting, the Grizzlies stepped on the Clippers early, and kept their foot on the gas throughout. They hit 11-of-26 3-pointers in the first half, seemingly unfazed when the Clippers switched in and out of zone defense.
The Clippers were without two of their best perimeter defenders in Patrick Beverley and Paul George, but their inattention to detail and failure to close out on shooters were inexcusable. Three Grizzlies had multiple triples in the first half.
On offense, the team sorely missed Beverley and George in the starting unit. Derrick Walton Jr. and Landry Shamet entered the starting lineup in their place, and though Walton is technically a true point guard, the lack of ball movement from L.A. was crippling.
Part of the problem was that the Clippers simply couldn't hit shots, but they weren't helping themselves by failing to move the defense or generate any mismatches in the starting unit. Only when the bench came in did the Clippers finally start to have some success scoring the ball.
Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams proved just the antidote the Clippers needed for their stagnant offense, and Rodney McGruder and Jerome Robinson provided requisite energy on the defensive end. Kawhi Leonard also started to knock down his jumper as the Clippers cut the deficit to eight at halftime.
It still felt like the Grizzlies were outplaying their counterparts substantially, however. They had more offensive rebounds, fewer turnovers, and had visibly more energy throughout. At the start of the third quarter, they proved that they deserved to win this game.
Memphis began the third on a 14-7 run to extend their lead to 15, and the Clippers started to unravel. The team shot 9-of-28 in the quarter, and Leonard was a disastrous 1-of-8, effectively flustered by Jae Crowder's defensive pressure. The Grizzlies continued to get out and run, adding nine fast-break points to none for L.A., essentially putting the game away before the final twelve.
What was most disappointing about the Clippers' performance was their inability to impose their will in any facet of the game. Memphis was dominant in the paint and effective from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies bullied the Clippers on the glass and got out in transition. It was a master class by a less-experienced team on the road.
The Clippers get a chance to bounce back in a very similar setting Sunday afternoon against the New York Knicks.