Grizzlies earn revenge on Clippers
Less than two weeks after the Los Angeles Clippers edged Memphis in overtime and ended the Grizzlies' unlikely joyride to the top of the Western Conference standings, the Grizzlies repaid the favor in vintage grit-and-grind fashion.
Memphis found a defensive groove once again and stifled the Clippers on Wednesday night at FedExForum, knocking the visitors out of a tie for first place with a 96-86 victory.
The Clippers (16-8) entered as winners of 10 of their last 12 and left with their lowest point total of the season. The Grizzlies (14-9) held Western Conference Player of the Month Tobias Harris to seven points on 2-of-13 shooting.
Here are some things to know from the game:
Still a rivalry?
Afterward, the Grizzlies offered grins and respectful comments in response to whether the Grizzlies-Clippers series is a rivalry like it was during the heyday of the grit-and-grind era, when the two squared off in some memorable playoff meetings.
"I know there’s a history between the organizations," Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "So many of the faces have changed. I don’t know if you’d consider it a rivalry, but each team wants to beat each other badly."
Clippers make their run
A Mike Conley running 3-pointer from 33 feet at the first-half buzzer put the Grizzlies ahead 51-42. Then, the Clippers made their run. Los Angeles started the third quarter on an 11-0 streak. Bickerstaff called a timeout at the 9:31 mark after a 51-42 lead evaporated in a sea of turnovers and fouls.
It was reminiscent of the third quarter when the teams met on Nov. 23. In that game, the Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 31-18 in the third quarter and erased an eight-point halftime deficit on the way to a 112-107 win at Staples Center.
Boban Marjanovic shines
The Clippers' 7-foot-3 big man scored a season-high 19 points off the bench, hitting 11-of-12 free throws while proving hard to defend in the pick-and-roll offense.
Marjanovic did his damage in only 13 minutes. His strong outing contrasted with Marc Gasol's worst shooting night of the season. The Grizzlies' star went 1for-13 from the field.
Gasol's off night magnified the importance of the varied contributions the Grizzlies received from around the roster. All ten Grizzlies who played scored. JaMychal Green racked up 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
"Everybody stepped up tonight," Green said. "We got the game won playing defense and moving the ball as a team."
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 22 points. He and Gasol played just 34 and 33 minutes after their minute totals crept up towards 40 at times over the last couple of weeks. It was Gasol's lowest-minute total in a month.
"We want those guys as fresh as we possibly can, so 34 or 35 minutes for those two is good," Bickerstaff said. "Same thing with Garrett (Temple). I had been pushing him, so it's good to be able to pull those guys back some, and we have the depth to do it."
One day after officially joining the Grizzlies, veteran center Joakim Noah played in an NBA game for the first time since January. The 33-year-old former NBA Defensive Player of the Year started the second quarter on the court.
Noah walked off with his hands on his hips and sweat dripping down his face to a series of high-fives and back pats from the Grizzlies bench after five minutes and 20 seconds of action.
He posted no points or rebounds in his first spurt on the floor. But the Grizzlies expanded their lead from 13 to 16 with him in the game.
Noah re-entered with 5:32 left in the third quarter and played briefly with Gasol, who is also a former Defensive Player of the Year.
Noah played the rest of the quarter and the beginning of the fourth, finishing with four points in 13 minutes. His first bucket came on a tip-in with 1.1 seconds in the third quarter and tied the game at 69.
“It was the best, man," Noah said. "I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. There were a lot of nights when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the opportunity to come back and play. I stayed with it and I’m really happy. I’m really happy.”
His second score was a jump shot from the right wing that put the Grizzlies ahead 71-69 early in the fourth quarter.
Noah received a loud ovation from the crowd of 14,144 when he checked out with 9:56 left.
The Grizzlies play at the New Orleans Pelicans (13-13) on Friday (7 p.m. Fox Sports Southeast).
Reach Grizzlies beat writer David Cobb at [email protected]mercialappeal.com or on Twitter @DavidWCobb.