The Clippers could never quite get over the hump on Thursday night in Memphis, where Jaa Morant’s third-quarter bounce helped the Grizzlies to a 120-108 victory, their second win this season against Tyrone Lew’s team.
Morant finished with a game-high 28 points and Memphis outscored the Clippers, 74-36 in the paint, and improved 8-7, including 6-3 at FedExForum, where 13,419 fans were in hand on Thursday. .
After winning seven in a row, the Clippers lead 1-2 and are 9-6 on aggregate.
They remained short-handed in Memphis when Nicholas Buttum was added to their long list of unavailable Clippers which also included Kawhi Leonard (ACL), Marcus Morris Sr. (Knee), Keon Johnson (Ankle), Justice Winslow (Individual), Jason Preston were involved. (legs) and Serge Ibaka (G-League).
Memphis recently found strength when Dillon Brooks returned to the lineup after recovering from a fractured left arm last week. Coming into conflict with the Clippers, the former Oregon standout scored 59 combined points in his three appearances since rejoining the lineup on November 10, including 16 in the Houston Rockets’ 136-102 of Memphis on Monday. He and Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 18 points on Thursday.
It was a back-and-forth first half—the yo-yo in that Memphis lead was between 10 and two or three points as the two sides exchanged spurts.
George, Luke Kennard and Ivica Zuback scored 11 points before halftime, and the Clippers went into the break on an upswing. He used a 7–0 run – punctuated by a crossover from George and a deep 3-pointer – to get three points to a 56–53 lead for the first time.
Then George hit two hard three-pointers in a row right after halftime, keeping the Clippers close to 60-59. A pair of rich Coffey free throws gave the Clippers their first and only lead, which was short-lived as 61-60.
But, led by Morant’s 17-point blast in the third period, the Grizzlies choked, shooting 18 for 25 in the quarter, when they outscored LA 38-32 to take a nine-point buffer in the final period. .
He extended the lead since then, and when he pushed it to 107-89, Lew pulled all his starters next to Coffey—who had started his third NBA game in only three seasons because the Clippers were so short. The Clippers play again in less than 24 hours, traveling to New Orleans to meet the Pelicans at 5 p.m. Friday
George finished with 23 points (on 9-for-18 shooting, including 5-for-9 points from 3-point range), his 11th consecutive game of at least 20 points. Reggie Jackson scored 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting, the first time this season the Clippers have lost a game when he has scored at least that many points.
Zuback finished with 13 points and seven of the Clippers’ 41 rebounds – well shy of Memphis’ tally on the boards. Led by Steven Adams’ 10 rebounds, he shot down 52 boards in the win, the Grizzlies’ second in a row against the Clippers.
Despite scoring 41 points on 25 of 15 shoots from George in their October 23 meeting, Memphis won that too 120–114, as Morant scored 28 points and eight assists.
There is much more to come on this story.