Clippers, Grizzlies both on upswing
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers will look to exact some revenge when they play host to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.
The red-hot Clippers have won five of their last six games, and All-Star forward Blake Griffin returned to action for the past two games. Their only defeat during their current revival was a 115-112 setback at Memphis on Dec. 23.
Beginning with that game, the Grizzlies have won three of their past five. That stretch looks even better considering they had lost eight of nine before the triumph over the Clippers.
"This is who we need to be," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said last week. "We've had those pockets where we struggled offensively, but the more active we are offensively, the more thrust we play with. We're never going to be a super-fast, breakneck team. But we need to play with more thrust. Even in the half court, our cuts have to be more powerful, just our movement in general."
Powerful play has also returned to the Clippers now that Griffin has made a quick recovery from a sprained knee. The initial diagnosis was that Griffin would be for two months after his Nov. 30 mishap when teammate Austin Rivers crashed into his knee. Griffin beat that schedule by a full month.
The power forward scored a game-high 24 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, then had 25 points as the Clippers upended the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. Griffin played 32 and 33 minutes, respectively, in the first two games of his return.
As amazing as Griffin's speedy recovery was, so has the fact that he has not missed a beat with his productivity on the court. When did he know he would be able to return so quickly, while also being effective?
"Pretty much right away; I would say within the first week," Griffin said. "That feeling kind of went away. I think it is all in how you feel. Through the rehab process, I never had a moment where I felt like, 'Oh, I can't do that.' There are all of these little steps I had to take to be able to eventually play, and I hit all of those. So I knew it was going a little bit faster than we thought."
The Grizzlies also are getting healthy. Second-year guard Wayne Selden just returned from early-season quad injury. Forward Chandler Parsons has missed two consecutive games due to right knee soreness, and his status for Tuesday was unknown. Guard Mike Conley is out indefinitely with an Achilles injury.
The Clippers are dealing with an Achilles injury, too, but like Griffin's knee injury, this one might turn out to be less devastating than first expected. Rivers was injured in the Friday victory over the Lakers, leaving the locker room on crutches, and he missed the Sunday game. He will try to play Tuesday against the Grizzlies after the injury was tied to a "jammed" muscle in his calf area.
"When it jammed, it felt like something popped, so you feel a popping and a stinging in your Achilles and you can't put weight on it and ... never having anything like that before, with your Achilles ... I started getting emotional," Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "That's one of the worst things that you could have as an athlete these days. But they came back with great news."
Clippers starting forward Danilo Gallinari remains out with a glute strain and isn't expected back for another month. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley is lost for the season after knee surgery.
The key matchup Tuesday will be a Grizzlies offense that has been much improved the last week-plus against a Clippers team that prides itself on defense. Memphis shot 54 percent from the field during a 114-96 victory at Sacramento on Sunday.
"It's been really nice," Bickerstaff said. "If you take a look at our past five games, our scoring is up, our shooting percentages are up, our assists are up and our turnovers are down. That's the growth we've been looking for in our offense."
Updated January 2, 2018