Memphis, Clips tangle in huge West showdown
(Sports Network) - Two of the Western Conference's elite will duke it out Saturday night when the Los Angeles Clippers visit the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
The Grizzlies are tied for third in the Western Conference with the Denver Nuggets, but Denver owns the tiebreaker with a 3-1 head-to-head record this season and is currently the third seed.
The Pacific Division champion Clippers are the fourth seed out west, but they trail the Grizzlies and Nuggets by a game. Los Angeles automatically earns a top-four seed as a division champion, but can still move into the third spot by finishing with a better record than either Memphis or Denver.
The Grizzlies won their third straight on Friday with an 82-78 road victory over the Houston Rockets. Memphis is the NBA's best defensive team in terms of opponents' scoring and Houston is the NBA's second-best scoring team at 105.8 ppg.
"All the guys are just on the same page," said Memphis guard Tony Allen. "When you've got five guys out there with the same goal, fighting hard and playing together, this is the outcome -- you get the win."
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins employed several different lineups in an effort to slow the Rockets down. Marc Gasol had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Zach Randolph, Allen, Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless also scored in double figures.
The Grizz finish the season with a trip to Dallas on Monday and a home finale against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
The Clippers won their fourth in a row Friday with a 96-93 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. L.A. trailed by six at the start of the fourth quarter, but outscored the Hornets 39-30 in the final frame.
"We finally found a way to get it done," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I was pleased, the last five or six minutes of the game we seemed to really lock in defensively, got some stops, scored a lot when we had to. I was disappointed early with our energy and the way we were running on both ends. It wasn't like we had been the last three games, but the fourth quarter was and that was obviously the key."
Del Negro employed a smaller lineup in crunch time with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe. Griffin had 20 points, while Paul notched 17 points and 14 assists. Barnes contributed 16 and 10 boards.
Chauncey Billups didn't play on Friday, but Del Negro believes Billups will see regular-season action before the playoffs start.
The Clippers host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, then close the regular season with a jaunt to Sacramento.
The Clippers have won two of three this season against the Grizzlies, including a Jan. 14 victory in Memphis. L.A. has still dropped four of its last six in Memphis.
04/13 10:48:46 ET