Behind a barrage of floaters and mid-range jumpers the Memphis Grizzlies scored a big win last night, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 122-94 as a + 280 underdog. Memphis was incredibly efficient from the most inefficient area of the floor to work, going 23-of-46 from mid-range and an even more ridiculous 21-of-41 from short mid-range (four-to-14 feet). Their efficiency from that area allowed the Grizzlies to averaged 1.289 points per possession after they managed less than a point per possession in their previous two games against Dallas and Phoenix.
On the surface, the defensive performance of the Clippers yesterday is another perplexing effort for a team that now ranks 20th in defensive efficiency, according to Cleaning The Glass. Los Angeles is a team that will allow teams to take mid-range shots, emphasizing defense at the rim or along the perimeter, and getting killed by a hot mid-range shooting team last night will happen from time-to-time, but it does not explain the other issues for the Clippers defense. They rank 22nd in opponent shooting at the rim (64.5 percent), 24th in overall mid-range shooting (44.3 percent) and 21st in non-corner 3-point shooting (37.7 percent). One hot night from Memphis hurts, but these numbers are from 34 games of work! What gives?
Some of it is just bad luck. Los Angeles ranks 24th in opponent shooting percentage on two-point shots with a defender being within two feet, but are giving up 51.8 percent in those situations. Last night was a great example of that, where floater after floater found nylon despite hands in faces and awkward angles. The Clippers still need to work on their game defensively, not all of it is bad luck, but last night was a great example of what they have been dealing with all season long.
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The Main Event
Utah Jazz (-6.5, 217.5) at Miami Heat
This is the best game on the board tonight, and there is no doubt about it. Utah takes its 22-2 SU run into South Beach to take on a Miami team that is improving every night, and is playing some of the best defensive basketball in the league. The Heat have won four and covered four straight games, and during that run have allowed just 106.1 points every 100 possessions. Last time we saw Miami, the team shut down Toronto in the fourth quarter, limiting the Raptors just 0.958 points per possession over the final 12 minutes. Defense has always been a staple of this Heat franchise, but what we have seen since Jimmy Butler’s return from COVID-19 has been stupendous to say the least. However, on Feb. 13 this Heat team went to Utah, catching the Jazz on the second leg of a back-to-back after they had just housed Milwaukee, and were handed a 112-94 drubbing themselves. What has changed in this rematch?