The Memphis Grizzlies continue to show it can succeed with or without star guard Ja Morant.
Its winning streak is at seven games in advance of a two-game visit from the Los Angeles Clippers starting Wednesday.
Morant missed Memphis’ 113-108 home victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday because of right thigh soreness, with the absence characterized as more of a precaution during the first game of a back-to-back set.
The Grizzlies (48-27) started their current winning streak with Morant away on a self-imposed sabbatical that was changed to a league-mandated suspension as a result of questionable behavior during a live video from a nightclub.
Morant missed nine games -- the first on March 5, when the Grizzlies absorbed a 135-129 defeat to the Clippers in Los Angeles. Paul George scored 42 points for the Clippers in that game, but he won’t be available for this one -- he is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a right knee injury.
Without being able to lean on Morant on Tuesday, Memphis received 31 points from Desmond Bane and a career-high 20 from Xavier Tillman.
Luke Kennard, who was acquired by the Grizzlies from the Clippers in a three-team trade in February, continues to make an impact on his new team. He scored 16 points on Tuesday, shooting 4 of 5 from 3-point range, and has averaged 20 points over his past three contests. He put up 30 points (all on a franchise-record 10 3-pointers) in a playoff-clinching win against the visiting Houston Rockets on Friday.
“As an opponent coming in here, it was always a tough place to play -- the fans are always into it,” Kennard said Tuesday after the Grizzlies posted their franchise-record 33rd home win of the season. “Now to be a part of it, it’s a lot of fun and you can feel the excitement, how much they love the team, and it definitely gets us going a little bit.”
While the Grizzlies are in second place in the Western Conference, three games behind the Denver Nuggets (51-24), the Clippers (40-36) are in fifth place and just a half-game out of fourth. However, they are also just one game ahead of the seventh-place Minnesota Timberwolves (39-37).
The Clippers enter off a much-needed, 124-112 home victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday, when Nicolas Batum scored 24 points while making 8 of 10 attempts from 3-point range. Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and added seven rebounds and six assists.
Russell Westbrook tallied 12 points and 10 assists for Los Angeles. He has become more of a factor following a dreadful start in which the team lost his first five games after he signed as a free agent in February.
“It’s great,” Leonard said of team-wide contributions against the Bulls that included 15 first-half points from Batum and 16 first-half points from Eric Gordon, who finished with 22. “They set the tone early tonight offensively, making shots. This is what we are going to have to do with (George) being out and, yeah, it just opens up the floor.”
After the Grizzlies and Clippers play on Wednesday, they meet again on Friday in Memphis. Los Angeles has lost three of its past four games at Memphis, including both contests last season.