Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (50) and Clippers forward Caron… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
It has become clear that the Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies have a strong dislike for each other.
So don't be surprised if Monday night's game in Memphis is played so intensely that it's almost like Game 9 of their first-round playoff series last season.
"I'm sure it will be," Clippers guard Chris Paul said.
The Clippers and Grizzlies played an exciting, physical, trash-talking series that the Clippers won against considerable odds on the road in Game 7.
Then the teams opened the regular season Oct. 31 at Staples Center and it was another bruising, trash-talking, intense game that played out like an extension of the previous spring's playoff series.
Blake Griffin and Memphis' Zach Randolph picked up technical fouls during the season opener, which the Clippers won. Fifty-two personal fouls were called.
"It's going to be an intense game because the teams don't like each other," Clippers forward Matt Barnes said. "They are right behind us in the [Western Conference] standings. We beat them once already. This team knocked them out of the playoffs last year so I think they've got plenty of motivation for it to be a war."
The Grizzlies are a physical team that likes to pound the ball down low to power forward Randolph, who is second on the team in scoring (16.6 points per game) and first in rebounding (11.7), and center Marc Gasol, who is third in scoring (13.4), second in rebounding (7.5) and second in assists (3.8). Forward Rudy Gay is Memphis' leading scorer (17.8); point guard Mike Conley leads in assists (6.2) and averages 13.3 points.
"They probably have two of the best big men that play together in the league," Paul said. "Those guys feed off each other. They are the best two-big-man combination in the league, the way they play off each other.
"They got Mike who is just steady and keeps the ship steady. Tony Allen is a great defender. He's going to defend people and Rudy is their go-to guy. Tough team."
The three-game trip that begins Monday doesn't figure to be easy for the Clippers. From Memphis, they go to Houston to play Houston to face the surprising Rockets on Tuesday night, then play at Minnesota on Thursday night against the Timberwolves.
"Houston has been playing extremely well, led by James Harden," Paul said. "For us, it's all about the next game. We've got to go into Memphis ready to play or it'll get ugly."
Paul injury update
The Clippers didn't practice Sunday, but the team said Paul would play despite injuring his right knee Saturday during a loss to the Orlando Magic.
Paul said after the game that his knee "was OK," but that it was a scary moment when the injury happened.
Paul said he was looking up while trying to chase down a loose ball when he bumped knees with Orlando guard J.J. Redick in the fourth quarter.
Paul was down for a while, but finished the game.
Seeking better defense
After giving up 104 points to the Magic, the Clippers pointed to defensive effort as a culprit when they lose.
"Our defense is something that can always get better," Paul said. "We've got to execute better, too, in certain situations. But our defense can always get better."
Barnes said the Clippers have stopped creating their offense with their defense. He said that needs to change.
"We've got to lock in on defense," Barnes said. "We've kind of made an identity for ourselves on the defensive end. So we've just got to get back to doing that."