The Los Angeles Clippers delivered a heavy blow to the Memphis Grizzles on Thursday night, winning by 20 points on the road. The Clippers have had some struggles as of late, going 1-3 since the start of December. Despite this, they came together against the Grizzlies and showed what can keep them victorious this season.
LA's Shooters Stepped Up
The Clippers shot an unsightly 23.9 percent from three-point range in their last two losses against the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks. While the Pacers are a top team at defending long-range shooting (No. 5 in the NBA this season), the Hawks rank ninth worst in the category.
LA shot 11-of-20 from three-point range against Memphis, which was good for a 55 percent conversion rate. Antawn Jamison and Reggie Bullock led the way, combining for 6-of-8 shooting, but nine of the Clippers' 11 long-range makes were assisted on.
This doesn't come as much of a surprise, given LA's ranking as the second-best team at passing the ball, but the fact that the shooters did their job came as one when you consider their recent performances.
The Clippers are an average three-point shooting team, knocking down 34.6 percent, which is good for No. 18 in the NBA. With the plethora of shooters on the roster, it's only a matter of time before what they did against Memphis becomes routine.
While it's unlikely the team will hit 55 percent from deep for the entire season, an increase is attainable.
The Clippers' Defense Worked (For a Change)
LA has been mediocre at defending the basketball this season, allowing 101.1 points per game on 45.2 percent shooting. The team's fast pace is mainly to blame for the high total of opponent points, but this was not a factor against Memphis.
The Clippers kept the Grizzlies to just 81 points on Thursday night, with Memphis shooting 37.7 percent from the field. The Grizzlies are still without Marc Gasol (sprained MCL), so that is a factor to consider as well.
Memphis also shot 23.1 percent from three-point range. The Grizzlies aren't a terrific perimeter shooting team, ranking No. 28 in the league at 32.1 percent this season.
Given the fact that the Clippers seemingly forgot what defense was against Atlanta on December 4 by allowing 12-of-23 shooting for 52.2 percent from deep, it's encouraging to see the team go beyond expectations and lock down the perimeter.
LA's Role Players Can Step up When Needed
The Clippers are currently without Matt Barnes (retinal tear) and J.J. Redick (broken hand). The latter has been terrific for LA so far, averaging 15.8 points per game as the starting shooting guard.
Barnes has been his usual self as the defensive enforcer coming off the bench. Both are key contributors for the Clippers, but the team has had others step up and fill in.
LA's bench outscored Memphis' 50-31 on Thursday, with guys like Reggie Bullock, Darren Collison and Antawn Jamison all chipping in.
Bullock, who was drafted No. 25 overall by LA this season, and Jamison combined for the aforementioned long-range shooting display that was key down the stretch. Collison had 15 points and three assists off the bench (albeit with four turnovers), and Jamal Crawford contributed 15 points as well.
The four players were locked in and broke the game open at the start of the fourth quarter, scoring or assisting on every point save for a DeAndre Jordan dime with 3:02 left. The Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 37-28 in the last period, and the bench was a big reason.
LA is just 6-4 over the last 10 games but is primed to move up in the Western Conference standings. The addition of head coach Doc Rivers will be major down the stretch, as will these takeaways from the victory over Memphis.
LA is talented enough to be successful; it's only a matter of time before these keys become instrumental.