The Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers could swap war stories about their respective struggles this season. The Clippers, though, would likely have more to discuss from the last three weeks.
The Clippers look to avoid their 11th straight loss and end their longest losing streak in nearly four years on Saturday when they host the Grizzlies, who fared surprisingly well in their first game at Staples Center this weekend.
After winning its first two games following the All-Star break, Los Angeles (21-51) has lost 18 of 20, including 10 in a row since edging league-worst Miami 99-98 on March 10. The Clippers haven’t had a longer skid since they dropped 13 straight games from March 17-April 11, 2004.
Los Angeles shot 51.5 percent on Friday night, but gave up its highest point total in more than two months in losing 121-101 at Utah. Los Angeles forward Corey Maggette had 28 points, but Utah’s Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams combined for 66 points on 29-of-37 shooting from the field to punctuate the absences of Elton Brand (Achilles’ tendon surgery) and Shaun Livingston (knee surgery), each of whom has missed the entire season with his injury.
While the Grizzlies (19-53) have managed to stay reasonably healthy, they’ve had an equally disappointing season under first-year head coach Marc Iavaroni. Memphis launched into rebuilding mode when it traded center Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers in February for cap space and draft picks, and is on pace for its lowest winning percentage since it went 8-42 during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
The Grizzlies are in 13th place in the Western Conference, two games behind the 12th-place Clippers.
However, Memphis has put together a solid stretch lately, winning three of five games with one of the losses in that stretch coming in overtime. The most impressive of the victories was Friday night’s 114-111 win over the Lakers at Staples Center.
Gasol, sidelined with a sprained ankle, didn’t play in his new team’s first game against his former club, and the Grizzlies took advantage. Second-year forward Rudy Gay scored 28 points to lead five Memphis players in double figures as the Grizzlies overcame Kobe Bryant’s 53-point performance for their sixth road win in 36 tries.
“Road win, playoff team, Kobe going off,” Gay said, listing reasons why it was a big win. “We played so well together. We just don’t want to lose. We’re not trying to give up on anything.”
The Grizzlies hope to avoid a letdown against the Clippers, who have won five of the last six games in the series, including two of three this season.
Memphis guard Mike Miller has scored 25.0 points per game and shot 56.7 percent from the field in two games against Los Angeles, while Maggette has averaged 29.3 points and shot 57.1 percent in three meetings with Memphis.