NBA Picks: Defense & Bench Strength Give Grizzlies the Edge Over Clippers

Jason Lake

Thursday, February 26, 2015 7:51 PM GMT

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 7:51 PM GMT

Just when the Los Angeles Clippers looked like they might be a better bet without Blake Griffin, they get tripped up by the basketball odds in back-to-back games. Maybe the Memphis Grizzlies are their kryptonite.

Jason’s record as of Feb. 26: 36-35-4 ATS, 2-6 Totals


What are we going to do with the Los Angeles Clippers? They’ve been zigging while we zag ever since Blake Griffin hurt his elbow. Our latest fail was in Wednesday’s matchup against the Houston Rockets; just like two weeks ago, the Rockets couldn’t stop DeAndre Jordan (22 points, 19 rebounds), but this time, they prevailed 110-105 as 3.5-point home faves. Consarnit.

We’ve got another situation coming up Friday night (8:00 p.m. ET) with a team that the Clippers faced recently, the Memphis Grizzlies. Considerably stouter in the frontcourt than the Rockets sans Dwight Howard, the Grizzlies (+3.5 away) held Jordan to nine points and 17 rebounds in Monday’s 90-87 victory. Are we in for more of the same for Friday’s rematch at the Grindhouse? The early NBA odds have Memphis favored by five points.

 

Assists Needed
First, I suppose it’s time for our latest Austin Rivers (10.4 PER) update. After scoring zero points against the Grizzlies, Rivers shot 2-for-8 against the Rockets on Wednesday, finishing with five points, no assists and a minus-8 in 15 minutes. Houston’s bench was the difference-maker in this game, especially Corey Brewer, who went off for 20 points – 13 of those in the fourth quarter.

This is the kind of thing that’s going to happen more often than not as long as Rivers (minus-3.2 BPM) is backing up Chris Paul (24.5 PER). We don’t mean to single him out; he’s just an obvious target from an NBA picks perspective. Quality reserve guards are a huge source of income for handicappers. The Clippers (37-21 SU, 24-34 ATS) were highly profitable last year with Darren Collison (16.2 PER), and again the year before that with Eric Bledose (17.5 PER).

 

3-or-D
There are other issues with L.A.’s bench that we can look at. While Jamal Crawford (17.6 PER) remains a highly valuable sixth-man, the frontcourt is a bit of a mess with Glen Davis (12.4 PER) and Hedo Turkoglu (9.9 PER) soaking up minutes while Griffin (23.1 PER) is out. Davis does bring an element of defense (plus-0.5 DBPM) as well as energy and hustle, and Turkoglu is hitting 44.8 percent of his 3-pointers, so at least they have niches to fill. But it hasn’t been worth putting up with their overall weaknesses.

It’s too bad, because we’re tempted to think that Griffin is a bit overvalued in the marketplace. He’s definitely worthy of being named an All-Star, but his plus-3.8 BPM is his worst since his rookie campaign, and third on the Clippers behind Paul (plus-6.6) and Jordan (plus-4.1). Of course Los Angeles is better off with Griffin in the lineup, but we’d be more inclined to follow the Clips if they had some more bench strength behind Spencer Hawes (11.6 PER).

 

Here’s the Beef
Again, even if Jordan has been on a tear since Griffin was hurt, he’s been taking advantage of teams like the Rockets with not a lot of beef at center. The Grizzlies (41-15 SU, 28-26-2 ATS) have the beef. Marc Gasol (22.2 PER) and Zach Randolph (20.5 PER) are very tough down low, and Gasol’s plus-3.5 DBPM is just shy of noted defensive specialist Tony Allen (plus-3.6 DBPM) for the team lead.

Memphis also has bench strength coming out of its ears. Kosta Koufos (14.0 PER) has a plus-2.4 DBPM backing up Gasol. Beno Udrih (16.5 PER) is delivering the goods as a reserve point guard. And there’s plenty more where they came from, including Nick Calathes (14.0 PER), who was one of four plus players on the Grizz bench when they beat L.A. on Monday. We’ll take our chances and dial them up again Friday night.

Free NBA Pick: Take the Grizzlies

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