Grizzlies-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies got by without Zach Randolph during the first four games of their latest surge, but they were certainly happy to see him back in the lineup as it continued.

His presence, though, hasn't been enough to get them past the Los Angeles Clippers in either of this season's meetings.

Memphis seeks its 14th victory in 15 tries Wednesday night as it visits Los Angeles, which is coming off its best offensive performance of the season.

Randolph sprained his ankle in a loss at Miami on March 1 and missed the next four games - all Memphis victories. He returned Tuesday and scored 19 points while adding 10 rebounds in 28 minutes of a 102-97 win at Portland.

He hit 8 of 13 from the field and has a double-double in six of his last seven games for the Grizzlies (43-19), who have won six of seven road games during their current hot stretch.

"I felt pretty good out there,'' Randolph said. "A little sore, but overall I felt all right.''

Mike Conley had a career-high 15 assists and Marc Gasol, who lauded Randolph's effort, scored 20 points. Gasol is shooting 61.8 percent over his last six games.

"He's back,'' Gasol said of Randolph. "There's no way around it - we need Zach. There's no way around that.''

A night after Randolph thrived against one of his former teams, he'll get a chance at another. But Randolph, who averaged 20.9 points in 39 games for the Clippers in 2008-09, has struggled with his shooting against Los Angeles this season. He scored 15 points and had 16 rebounds in a 101-92 loss Oct. 31, but he hit only 5 of 15 from the field and 5 of 9 from the free throw line.

He shot 5 of 16 and had identical free throw numbers while finishing with 15 points and 12 boards Jan. 14 as the Clippers rolled to a 99-73 win at FedEx Forum without Chris Paul.

The Grizzlies, though, are percentage points ahead of the Clippers (45-20) for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoff race and are allowing an NBA-best 89.5 points per game.

Their defense likely will face a tough challenge against a Los Angeles team that set a season high for points in a 129-97 win over Detroit on Sunday.

Paul scored 20 points while adding 14 assists and said the Clippers, who defeated Memphis in seven games in last season's first-round playoff series, are focused on making a move in the tightly packed West. Only six games separate first-place San Antonio from fifth-place Denver.

"Now is the time, probably in the last 10 games or so, when you really start jockeying for position," Paul told the team's official website. "Right now, I think we're just talking about building, making sure we're playing the right way at the right time."

Los Angeles, which has split its last four games, shot a season-best 62.5 percent from the field Sunday as Blake Griffin hit 9 of 12 from the field and scored a game-high 22 points.

The Clippers, though, hope to get better defensively after allowing 103.3 points per game over their last four - well above their average of 94.4.

"It's something we've talked about the past couple of days in practice is turning up the intensity and getting back to playing aggressively, especially defensively," Griffin said.

Los Angeles has won 12 of the last 15 meetings at Staples Center, including last season's playoffs.