Injuries continue to pile up for the Memphis Grizzlies.
One day after it was announced that star guard Ja Morant was set to undergo season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, Memphis put together one of its most complete performances of the season during Tuesday’s 120-103 rout of the Mavericks.
But that renewed sense of optimism was quickly nixed on Thursday, when it was revealed that guard Marcus Smart would miss about six weeks due to a right ring finger injury that he sustained against Dallas.
Now left with a seriously undermanned backcourt, the Grizzlies will attempt to continue battling through adversity on Friday night when they face the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.
Morant was injured during a training session last Saturday, and an MRI exam later revealed that he had torn his labrum. He was officially shut down for the season on Monday.
Memphis responded emphatically, though, getting 32 points and nine rebounds from Desmond Bane and 23 points from Smart in the win over the Mavericks. Luke Kennard, Ziaire Williams and Xavier Tillman chipped in 14 points apiece.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins believes his team is going to be just fine if it continues to commit to the brand of team basketball that was on display Tuesday, regardless of who is playing.
“(The players) always talk about (how) we got a lot of depth, we’ve got a lot in this group, that we’re fully capable if we put in the intensity and the appropriate ownership,” Jenkins said. “I think just the confidence and the ownership of where we’re at, what we’ve got to do, is clicking.”
However, that depth will be tested on Friday with one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference coming to town.
Los Angeles has won seven of its past eight games, most recently beating the Toronto Raptors 126-120 on Wednesday night.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the way with 29 points apiece, while James Harden recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double. Ivica Zubac also had a double-double, supplying 12 points and 11 boards.
Although Leonard, George and Harden have been shouldering most of the load during the Clippers’ recent surge, Zubac has quietly been on a roll. He has averaged 14.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over his past nine games while shooting 75.3 percent from the floor.
“I’ve always been confident,” Zubac said, “but right now it’s at a high level.”
Sitting fourth in the Western Conference ahead of Thursday’s slate of games, Los Angeles already has an eye toward the postseason, and coach Tyronn Lue sees every regular-season game as an opportunity to prepare for a deep playoff run.
“When you get to the playoffs it’s a whole different animal, and so we’ve got to start building those habits,” Lue said. “We’re doing it a little bit at a time, but we gotta start progressing a little bit more as far as being better with our execution and what we’re trying to do.”
Friday marks the third meeting of the season between the teams. The Clippers topped Memphis 117-106 on Dec. 29 after falling 105-101 to the Grizzlies on Nov. 12.
–Field Level Media
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