Definitive Guide to Grizzlies vs. Clippers and Monday's Top NBA Games
The NBA says no to Manic Mondays.
You're upset; I get it. No one wants the weekend to end. It's then that all those good end-of-workweek times become just a distant memory.
Jitterbugging down the corridors of your local mall, Saturday morning pancake fights in the front yard, driving 'round town with the top down and One Direction doing some serious damage to your speakers—those hallmark moments are history for another five days or so.
But where some people start lamenting the death of their two-day work hiatus, others choose to get excited. Every day presents a new opportunity to watch a fresh tilt of NBA games, contests that provide you with an escape from everyday life.
This Monday, despite a relatively short lineup, does not disappoint.
In an attempt to end their run of extravagant losing, the Brooklyn Nets' lame-duck act will be entertaining the Portland Trail Blazers. Elsewhere, surely angry that he failed to hit a trey in their last meeting, the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry is on a mission to dismantle the Utah Jazz, one quickly released three at a time.
Hoping to avenge their first-round loss from a few months ago, the offensively savvy, defensively flabbergasted Los Angeles Clippers will be hosting the gritting 'n' grinding 'n' suddenly prone-to-losing Memphis Grizzlies.
Keep your pajamas on standby, because it's going to be a long, entertaining night for the Association.
Monday Night's Lineup
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET
Charlotte Bobcats vs. Chicago Bulls, 8 p.m. ET
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m. ET
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Dallas Mavericks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz, 9 p.m. ET
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET
*All stats used in this article are from Basketball-Reference and accurate as of Nov. 18 unless otherwise attributed.
Best Matchup of the Night: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Let the menial shoving matches begin.
This marks the first time Los Angeles and Memphis have met since the Grizzlies sent the Clippers packing in the first round of last year's playoffs. Bad blood likely remains, but the circumstances are very different.
Both teams have new head coaches, but it's the Clippers who have found more success thus far. Their offense has carried them to an impressive 7-3 record, while Memphis is fighting to hover around .500 at 5-5.
Grit 'n' grind basketball hasn't looked good on the Grizzlies at all. Their offense is anemic as ever and currently ranks 21st in efficiency. Their defense, surprisingly, hasn't been much better, presently ranking 19th in efficiency.
More troublingly, only one of their wins has come against an opponent above .500 (Warriors). When facing teams with a winning record, the Grizzlies are 1-3 on the season.
Defense remains a concern for Doc Rivers' Clippers, who are 28th in points allowed per game (105.7). But Chris Paul, who was ejected the last time these two teams met, and friends are riding a four-game winning streak and will be seeking revenge against the contingent that derailed their title hopes less than a year ago.
Can the Grizzlies defense get it together in time to knock a surging Clippers outfit down a peg or two? Or will it be the Clippers who find satisfaction adding to Memphis' early struggles?
A rivalry will be reborn on Monday night. That, or the Clippers will make a fool out of a team on one of the season's most disappointing starts.
Must-See Individual Matchup: Zach Randolph vs. Blake Griffin
These two boys aren't likely to play nice.
Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph battled nonstop in the playoffs last season. Elbows were thrown and bodies collided as the two jostled for position in the post. At times, it, like DeAndre Jordan's free-throw shooting, was brutal.
Nothing figures to change in their first meeting of the season. Griffin is a notorious flopper, while Z-Bo is famous for sending not-so-discrete messages. When the latter is frustrated, he frowns like a child deprived of dessert and retaliates. Be it with a jersey tug or blatant shove, he's going to fight back.
There's no avoiding this, either. Defensive switches may call for Marc Gasol to defend Griffin, but both Z-Bo and Griffin are aggressive rebounders. Inevitably, they'll find each other under the basket, boxing out for rebounds.
Once next to each other, bet on contact. Arms will interlock, but they won't be hugging or holding hands. Shoulders will bang, and it won't be because they're checking each other for dandruff. Bodies will hit the floor, and it won't (always) be traced back to flopping.
Plan on an overly physical matchup, the kind that would get either player ejected from laser tag, but not an NBA game.
Who Has the Most on the Line?
Disappointing. Expensive. Overrated. Disastrous.
All of the above words could be used to describe Brooklyn's start to the season. The Nets have been simply atrocious thus far—like any movie with Keanu Reeves in it that wasn't The Replacements—in failing to put together a string of convincingly good performances.
A victory over the Miami Heat was nice, but that was ages ago. The Nets have only succeeded in winning two games since, one of which came against a tanking Phoenix Suns team playing way above their head in overtime.
Considering Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez didn't play against the Clippers, their 110-103 loss in Los Angeles was the result of an admirable effort. But that doesn't say much about the team when healthy. They're supposed to be a legitimate title contender, not three games under .500, tied with the New York Knicks for last place in the Atlantic Division and talking about moral victories.
Until now, the Nets have failed to establish themselves as elite in any one area of the game. They rank in the bottom half of points scored (19th), points allowed (22nd) and assists dished out (17th) per contest. And they're only 15th in rebounding.
Some title contender.
"I definitely saw a lot of heart," Andray Blatche said of Brooklyn's performance against the Clippers, per the Associated Press (via ESPN). "We showed effort and came out with a lot of fight."
On Monday, they face the 8-2 Blazers. It's against them the Nets can win their second game in the last six tries or gain sole possession of last place in the Atlantic, continuing down their current path of high-priced inferiority.
Before you decide which jersey to wear from your extensive collection of NBA garbs, I suggest you brush up on who might not be wearing uniforms of their own come tipoff.
Kevin Garnett (ankle): After missing the game against the Clippers with a sprained ankle, Garnett is listed as questionable...to show up to the arena at all.
Andrei Kirilenko (back): The New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy reported AK47 would miss at least three games, or all of Brooklyn's West Coast trip. It's unclear whether he'll play against the Blazers.
Brook Lopez (ankle): Like Garnett, Lopez missed Brooklyn's matchup against Los Angeles with a sprained ankle. His ankle and feet have given him problems in the past, so don't be surprised if the Nets take extra precautions moving forward.
Paul Pierce (groin): Pierce was yet another Nets star who didn't play in Los Angeles. Groin injuries can be tricky, but I'm more inclined to believe Kidd kept him out since it was the latter half of a back-to-back.
Deron Williams (ankle): Ankles really hate the Nets these days. Per ESPN New York's Mike Mazzeo, X-rays on Wiliams' ankle came back negative after he hurt it against the Suns. Given his history of ankle injuries, he's another one who could find himself out of commission tonight.
Danilo Gallinari (knee): Dear Gallo: Hurry back. Signed: Three-point enthusiasts everywhere.
JaVale McGee (leg): Question: Who will block shots for the Nuggets? Answer: No one. Alright, maybe Timofey Mozgov.
Nerlens Noel (knee): The league could really use a few good flattops, so I'm looking forward to 2014-15.
Michael Carter-Williams (foot): According to Philly.com's Keith Pompey, Carter-Williams doesn't expect to play on the Sixers' current road trip. I'll say this: The Sixers are doing all they can to tank.
Trey Burke (finger): He still hasn't been cleared for action since Utah announced he had resumed basketball activities. Too bad, because the Jazz really need a point guard. Unless, of course, they want to lose. So I guess there's no rush then...
*All information obtained via CBS Sports unless otherwise attributed.
Pop-in Potential: Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Any game featuring Kevin Durant has pop-in potential. He's efficient explosion meets Reed Richards personified.
Wiry and economical combustion aside, Oklahoma City's matchup against Denver is especially intriguing since the Nuggets have proved to be one of the most inscrutable teams early on.
Still without a true superstar, the Nuggets have, at times, looked terrible. Three games into the season, they looked like what the Sixers were supposed to be—winless, confused and already fitting Andrew Wiggins (Jabari Parker?) for a jersey.
Soon after came the three-game winning streak, following the announcement that McGee's questionable decision-making process would be sidelined indefinitely. Suddenly, they were .500 and worth watching. Following a loss to the still-unimpressive Houston Rockets, it'll be interesting to see how they respond. And how Oklahoma City handles them.
The Thunder haven't excelled at putting away second-rate opponents this season. They've allowed teams like the Detroit Pistons and Jazz to hang around, and they've downright struggled against the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns.
Coming off an "Are the Milwaukee Bucks really an NBA team?" type victory, Oklahoma City isn't far enough removed from consecutive losses to the Clippers and Warriors to approach this game with nonchalance. A 6-3 record is only good enough for fifth in the Western Conference, and the Thunder were 1-3 against the Nuggets last season.
This sure as hell isn't a must-win situation for the Thunder this early in the season, but there's value in distancing themselves from the bottom four playoff slots.
Fantasy Stock Watch
Fantasy owners beware: There are not a lot of teams in action Monday night.
Small slates can be beneficial, as they eliminate many potential lineup quandaries for owners who didn't draft the entire Jazz team just for fun. They're also a headache, especially early in the week, when many of you are looking to rebound from a tough loss to "Dude, Where's my Flattop?" or some other clever team name.
Think of this, then, as more of a comforting rest stop, where you find out which players are going to help you start the week right. As for those who aren't lucky enough to own any of the following names, I'm pretty sure you can add Andris Biedrins on the waiver wire to get your Monday night kicks.
The Big Guns
Stephen Curry didn't hit any threes when he faced the Jazz previously, so you should naturally expect him to make no fewer than five tonight.
Golden State's point guard has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four contests and guarantees you at least five dimes in the assists department. A volume shooter, he's a rare combination of deadly and efficient, meaning he can drum up your point totals without typically hurting your field-goal percentage.
Point guards haven't generally torched the Jazz this season, but I remain convinced it's going to happen eventually. Tonight.
Denver's defense has been awful, and I mean really awful. The Nuggets are allowing nearly 105 points a night and have only held opponents to under 100 three times.
In related news, Durant will go bonkers. He's gone two games without dropping 30 points, which just seems weird. Points were piling up for the wiry forward early on, but he's elected to holster his trigger finger the past few contests.
Expect that to change against Denver. With his Thunder currently sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference, Durant is going to hit 30 points. And seven-plus rebounds. And four-plus assists.
Durant is going to make fantasy owners happy as he leaves the Nuggets bewildered over what went wrong.
Brooklyn has been depressing defensively. Garnett hasn't helped the culture any, and Kirilenko's injury issues have the Nets longing for a healthy perimeter defender.
Thus, I give you Nicolas Batum.
Not known for filling it up in any specific area of the game, Batum is one of the more well-balanced players in the league. His season averages of 14.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game make for nice stat lines every night.
Against the Nets, who have had problems defending teams that move the ball as crisply as Portland does, he's primed for a big night. Toiling with a triple-double is not out of the question.