The Clippers have lost four of five games since beating the Grizzlies 113-110 in Los Angeles November 7th and are now playing not only without top pick Blake Griffin but second-year emerging star Eric Gordon, who is out with a groin injury. The Clippers come into FedExForum — much like the Wolves did — on the second night of a back-to-back set, having lost 110-102 to the New Orleans Hornets last night. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have had three days rest and have had a chance to start putting the Allen Iverson distraction behind them.
The Grizzlies played the Clippers well in Los Angeles — the team's first game following Iverson's butt-soreness-prompting departure — building a slim lead midway through the fourth quarter but executing poorly down the stretch (a previously hot Rudy Gay forcing too many shots). Gay had a three-point look to tie at the buzzer, but missed (and foot was on the line anyway). Tonight the Grizzlies get to make up for one that got away.
2. The Rookies: I'll be paying close attention to the Grizzlies' three rookies tonight. Hasheem Thabeet should be ready to go after suffering a (slightly) fractured jaw a week ago against Portland. Thabeet had on of this two best performances in the previous Clippers game, grabbing 3 boards, blocking 2 shots, and scoring on his only field-goal attempt in 11 minutes, while playing effective defense. (Is it sad that this is one of the two best appearances in 10 games for a #2 overall pick? Sure. But here we are.) Thabeet was ready to start getting consistent minutes after the Clipper game until Zach Randolph's noggin got in the way. Tonight, hopefully, he gets back on track. The Grizzlies could sure use his minutes against a mammoth center in the Clippers' Chris Kaman who is averaging 22 and 9.
As for the Grizzlies other two rookies, DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young: I don't think it's a coincidence that the team's two wins have come in their respective best games: Carroll's diversely effective 12 point effort against the Raptors and Young's 15 point bench contribution against the Timberwolves. The bench has been so terrible this season that even when the starters play well, the Grizzlies struggle. When the starters's play poorly? No chance. For the Grizzlies to become more competitive they need at last one of these two players to give a strong contribution in each game.
3. Tinsley's Debut?: Look for new signee Jamaal Tinsley play as the primary back-up point guard in his debut tonight. His size — a stocky 6'3" (as listed, perhaps a little generously) — could be particularly useful against the Clippers' Baron Davis, a big, powerful point guard who has punished Mike Conley on post-ups in the past. I wrote a lot about Tinsley here.
The Jacob Riis Report: The excellent ClipperBlog breaks down the team's loss to the Hornets, citing poor rebounding and bad shot selection from Baron Davis. If those elements carry over tonight, then the Grizzlies should be in good shape.