After dropping their season opener to the Golden State Warriors, the LA Clippers were unable to get their first win of the season Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Behind a great performance from rising star Ja Morant, the Grizzlies were able to overcome a masterpiece from Paul George, beating the Clippers 120-114.
The Clippers got off to a great start in the first half, and jumped out to a double-digit lead early. This start was sparked by the debut of Isaiah Hartenstein, who poured in 9 points, 3 rebounds, and assist in his first 8 minutes off the bench. His +7 +/- in the first half tied Reggie Jackson for the top mark on the team. He finished with 11 points in just 15 minutes of play.
As mentioned in the beginning, Paul George was absolutely dominant for the Clippers. The superstar who led the team during the playoffs in Kawhi's absence, poured in 41 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists on 60% shooting in the loss against Memphis. To begin the season, he is averaging 35.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 2.0 SPG on 60% from the field and 43% from deep. He has continued right where he left off in the playoffs.
After George's 41, the Clippers did not get much else from their supporting cast. Reggie Jackson was solid with 17 points, and Eric Bledsoe brought some great intangibles despite struggling from the field; however, Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, and Terance Mann combined for just 7/25 from the field, and 2/13 from deep. Those are three players the team will rely on heavily in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, and they just did not provide enough tonight.
Despite the two losses, Reggie Jackson is not concerned about the team's morale. He said postgame that, "I don't think any positivity is lost in this locker room." This comment came after he acknowledged that the starting lineup needs to be better, and the team should not need 40 points from George just to have a chance to win; however, he and the team are confident that they can find a groove soon.
On the other side, Memphis got some significant contributions from several different players. With Dillon Brooks set to miss time with a left hand fracture, De'Anthony Melton has stepped up for the Grizzlies in his absence. After scoring 20 points in their opening night win, Melton added 22 points against the Clippers on 9/16 from the field and 4/8 from deep. Along with Melton's 22, 2nd year guard Desmond Bane also had a nice performance. He added 19 points on 7/15 from the field. After going for 22 in the season opener, he also looks like a player who is ready to step up for Memphis.
This was anybody's ballgame entering the 4th quarter, with the Clippers trailing the Grizzlies 97-89 heading into the final frame. Through three quarters, Paul George already had 31 points on 12/18 from the field. The Clippers did a good job weathering the storm while George rested to begin the 4th quarter, winning those minutes 10-7; however, they were unable to complete the comeback.
The Grizzlies were just sharper offensively to finish the game, with Jaren Jackson Jr. leading the way. He finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds, including an absolute dagger three that closed the door on the Clippers in the final seconds. Paul George did all he could in the final frame to give the Clippers a chance to win, but the Grizzlies ultimately got a better all around performance from their finishing five, and it was enough to pull out a victory.
The Clippers will seek their first win on Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.