Clippers-Grizzlies Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 08, 2012
A victory over the Memphis Grizzlies last month helped the Los Angeles Clippers get back on track. The Grizzlies also have made a nice turnaround since that contest. The two surging Western Conference teams meet in Memphis on Monday night when the Clippers go for their first season sweep in this series in five years. With the team losing 12 of 19 and questions being raised over coach Vinny Del Negro's job security, Los Angeles (34-22) ended a season-high three-game skid March 24 with a 101-85 home win over the Grizzlies (32-23). That victory sparked a six-game winning streak - the Clippers' longest in 20 years - and now the team makes its lone visit to Memphis in 2011-12 with one loss in its last nine contests. A victory over the Grizzlies coupled with a Los Angeles Lakers loss to New Orleans on Monday would lift the Clippers back atop the Pacific Division and into third in the West. "We can't worry about what the Lakers are doing," Chris Paul told the Clippers' official website after scoring 19 points with 15 assists in Saturday's 109-94 victory over Sacramento. "We've got a tough (three-game) road trip and it's going to take a lot of poise." That could definitely be the case at FedExForum, where the Grizzlies have won four straight and 10 of 12 following Saturday's 94-89 victory over Dallas. Memphis snapped Miami's 17-game home winning streak the previous night with a 97-82 victory. "We are three up on (the Mavs) on the loss column and now we (won) a tiebreaker with two teams, Denver and Dallas, which is huge as we go forward," said coach Lionel Hollins, whose team is fifth in the West. "It is a tight race but we have to keep winning." Better shooting could help the Grizzlies continue their surge, as they've made just 42.8 percent from the field since the March 24 loss. However, Memphis' defense has sparked the team's 7-2 run, holding opponents to 91.4 points per game during that stretch. "Defense is always the difference," said Mike Conley, second in the league to Paul (2.5) with 2.4 steals per game. Newcomer Gilbert Arenas also is making a major difference in the Grizzlies' playoff push. He's made 10 of 15 3-pointers and is averaging 11.0 points over the last four games. "He has brought in a new spirit for our guys, and it is contagious," Hollins said. The Clippers hope Randy Foye can keep hitting from long distance. With Paul and Blake Griffin doing much of the heavy lifting, Foye has provided a nice third scoring option, averaging 20.2 points and hitting 25 of 54 from beyond the arc over the last six games. "Blake (Griffin) and CP draw a lot of attention, so all you've really got to do is knock down a 3 or go to the basket," Foye said Saturday after making seven 3s and scoring 25 points. The Clippers, who also beat the Grizzlies 98-91 on Jan. 26, have not swept this season series since taking all three meetings in 2006-07. Los Angeles ended a three-game skid in Memphis in its last visit, winning 82-81 on April 5, 2011. Mo Williams, who scored nine of his team-best 16 points in the fourth quarter of that game, could be available Monday after missing the last nine games with a sprained big toe on his left foot. Grizzlies guard Tony Allen is questionable after being sidelined two games with a facial laceration.
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