L.A. Clippers' high-scoring offense faces Memphis Grizzlies' tough defense


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MEMPHIS — The Memphis Grizzlies hope for a fairer shake from the referees when they seek to avenge an earlier overtime defeat in a rematch with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.

The clubs met Nov. 23 in Los Angeles, with the Clippers rallying late in regulation to tie before earning a 112-107 overtime win in a game in which they were awarded 27 free throws and the Grizzlies just 18.

The Grizzlies led by eight inside the final two minutes, but couldn’t hold on after star point guard Mike Conley fouled out.

Memphis head coach J.B. Bickerstaff labeled Conley’s sixth foul a “joke” and told the assembled media afterward that he was not happy with the way his club was officiated all night.

“Our defense is where we live,” he claimed. “It’s frustrating when we are not allowed to defend the way that we are. That’s our reputation and it’s frustrating.

“We deserve the respect because of the character of the guys we have, to play this style of basketball. Our technique is good, our position is good. We work on it every single day. There’s going to be contact sometimes, but if you’re in legal guarding position, you’re allowed to do it.”

The matchup pairs the NBA’s fourth-leading defense (Grizzlies, 103.1 points per game) against the third-leading offense (Clippers, 117.7).

The Clippers have scored 100 or more points in 22 straight games after being held to 98 by Denver in the opener. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have held eight opponents under 100.

Memphis would have nine such games if the first meeting with the Clippers had ended in regulation. The score was tied 98-98 after 48 minutes.

The Clippers have won five of their last six, including a 129-126 thriller at New Orleans on Monday. It was their 16th game this season in which there was no more than a five-point difference with five or fewer minutes remaining.

They’ve won 11 of those games.

“If you’re going to compete in the Western Conference — there’s a lot of talented teams — you’re going to have to be able to do that,” high-scoring reserve Lou Williams noted after the narrow escape against the Pelicans. “So I think that was good for us.”

Williams shot just 5-for-14 in the first meeting with the Grizzlies. Memphis outshot Los Angeles 45.7 percent to 42.6 and made one more 3-pointer (9 to 8), only to be undone by a 24-14 difference in free-throw points.

The game also features two of the league’s top rookies.

The Clippers have gone 11-3 since inserting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander into the starting lineup. The 11th overall selection of the draft has averaged 12.1 points and shot 47 percent over that stretch.

The Grizzlies, meanwhile, inserted their No. 4 overall pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., into the starting lineup in the third game of the season.

He has rewarded them with his best ball of late, scoring in double figures in nine of his last 11 games, a stretch during which he had 27 points against Sacramento and a season-best 36 in an overtime win at Brooklyn last Friday.

Free-agent center Joakim Noah signed with the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Noah, 33, will serve as a backup center.



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