Grizzlies, Clippers trending in opposite directions

The surging Memphis Grizzlies seek their eighth consecutive win on Saturday, facing the Clippers in the first half of a weekend back-to-back in Los Angeles.

Memphis matched its longest winning streak since February 2021 on Thursday with a 118-88 rout of Detroit. Ja Morant set the pace in a strong all-around game of 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Since returning to the lineup on Dec. 20 from a 12-game absence, the result of an ankle injury and then the health and safety protocol, Morant is averaging 27.0 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds over nine games.

Rookie Ziaire Williams, who missed 17 of 18 games before rejoining the rotation on Tuesday, scored a career-high 14 points Thursday in his first-ever start.

«He said, ‘That was great,'» Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said in his postgame press conference of Williams’ response to missing time due to an ankle sprain and the NBA protocol. «‘I actually got to take a step back and just watch games and just get a feel for where I’ve had success, what I need to keep working on.’ He’s humble during the process. He loves to work.»

Williams’ return helped the Grizzlies fill a few holes in the lineup. Kyle Anderson missed his third consecutive game with back soreness.

John Konchar and Xavier Tillman are in the health and safety protocol, and Desmond Bane was out of the rotation for the first time this season on Thursday due to a quadriceps injury.

Bane is averaging 17.4 points on the strength of 41.6 percent shooting from 3-point range. He is attempting a team-high 6.9 3-point attempts per game.

While the Grizzlies’ recent surge has helped elevate them to the Western Conference’s fourth-best record through games played Thursday, the Clippers have gone just 3-8 over their past 11 and slipped below .500 on the season. They are eighth in the West following a 106-89 loss Thursday at Phoenix.

Marcus Morris scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Reggie Jackson added 16 points and eight rebounds in the loss, carrying the load for a depleted Los Angeles roster.

A torn ligament in his right elbow has sidelined Paul George — the Clippers’ leading scorer at 24.7 points per game — since Dec. 26. George also leads Los Angeles in assists at 5.5 per game and steals with 2.0 per game, and he is second with 7.1 rebounds per game.

The Clippers’ leading rebounder at 8.2 per game, Ivica Zubac, is in the health and safety protocol along with 44.1-percent 3-point shooter Luke Kennard.

«Teams are a little bigger,» Los Angeles coach Tyronn Lue said in his postgame press conference as the absences of George and Zubac have thinned the Clippers frontcourt. «But we can do a better job of hitting first and bringing that physicality.»

Los Angeles has been without star Kawhi Leonard for the duration of the season due to an ACL tear sustained in last summer’s NBA postseason. Lue told reporters on Thursday that he had «optimism» Leonard could return this season but still was not sure.

–Field Level Media

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