Grizzlies give Clippers a run for the money but fall short in final minutes, 101-95

Memphis entered the game on a two-game winning streak but couldn't extend it, falling in the final moments to the Clippers, 101-95

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With the All-Star Break in the rearview, the NBA has cranked back up again. For the Grizzlies, that meant a Feb. 23 battle with the Los Angeles Clippers. With 26 games left in the season for the Grizzlies, the three key things they want to accomplish are to develop their young players, maintain consistency, and most importantly, avoid more injuries.

The Grizzlies had a full roster available for their game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, Feb. 23. Jake LaRavia and Derrick Rose were available to play. The Clippers, who got off to a slow start after acquiring James Harden from Philadelphia earlier this season, have been on a roll lately. Entering the game, the Clippers were in third place in the Western Conference, just two and a half games out of first place.

Memphis entered the game on a two-game winning streak but couldn’t extend it, falling in the final moments to the Clippers, 101-95, in front of a very lively crowd at the FedExForum. Memphis’s record dropped to 20-37, with only six home wins this season.

In the first quarter, the teams went back and forth. The Clippers (37-18) led by seven points at one time. The Grizzlies clawed their way back into the game thanks to their bench players, tying the game at 39-39 to end the quarter.

In the second quarter, the Grizzlies’ offense was more efficient, scoring 30 points with no player scoring over 6 points in the quarter. They had eight assists and led at halftime, 59-53, to the delight of their fans.

In the third quarter, the Grizzlies maintained the lead until a three-pointer by Russell Westbrook gave the Clippers their first lead in the second half (74-73) with 2:00 minutes remaining. The Clippers led at the end of the third quarter, 79-74.

The fourth quarter saw the game go back and forth. With 3:01 left, Paul George hit a three-pointer to give the Clippers a 92-91 lead. The final three minutes felt like a playoff game, with each team exchanging the lead.

The decisive moment came when James Harden, with 46 seconds left, hit his only three-pointer of the game, giving the Clippers a 95-91 lead. The Grizzlies struggled to score offensively and cut into the Clippers’ lead. Kawhi Leonard carried the Clippers in the second half, scoring 14 of his 24 points.

The Clippers had four other players score in double figures: Terrence Mann with 23 points and 12 rebounds, George with 14 points, Ivica Zubac with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook with 13 points off the bench.

Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 29 points and dished out 5 assists. Ziaire Williams had 10 points in a starting role, and GG Jackson continued to impress as a rookie with 11 points off the bench. Lamar Stevens, recently acquired from the Boston Celtics, scored 8 points and had 8 rebounds. Memphis was outrebounded by the Clippers 51-41 and forced 20 turnovers.

On why they are playing better defense lately, Stevens said, “We got a bunch of dogs who have something to prove. Everybody is getting a different type of opportunity being on this team. When you get that opportunity, you want to make the most of it. People come in here and don’t really know who this or that person is. We are dogs, and we are hungry.”

GG Jackson, discussing playing against a very physical team, said, “When you’re a rookie, you know you’re not going to get any calls. I just run back to the other end and have that next-play mentality.”

Williams, reflecting on his All-Star weekend experience, said, “It was fun. I got to meet some young stars in the league. I was tired after playing three games in three days, but the experience wakes you up. The energy comes from your first-time experience. I had a fun time.”

Jenkins has repeatedly said he wants his guys to have fun. When asked how we know he is enjoying himself, Stevens said, “When I am playing, I am having fun. I am having fun. When you see me on that court, I am ecstatic.”

The Grizzlies will get a chance to stay home for the next couple of days and won’t play again until Monday, Feb. 27, when they face the Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. at the FedExForum. The Nets recently fired their head coach, Jacque Vaughn.