Clippers-Pacers preview: Hosting the best

USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers have some injury issues as they face the team with the best record in the NBA, the Indiana Pacers. The Clippers will probably need all their weapons against the Indy defense, so if Redick and especially Paul are out, it won't bode well.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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12-5

15-1
December 1st, 2013, 12:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Probable Starters
Darren Collison PG George Hill
Willie Green SG Paul George
Jared Dudley SF Lance Stephenson
Blake Griffin PF David West
DeAndre Jordan C Roy Hibbert
Advanced Stats
96.2 (7th of 30) Pace 92.8 (21st of 30)
110.3 (4th of 30) ORtg 104.0 (14th of 30)
105.0 (16th of 30) DRtg 91.7 (1st of 30)
Injuries/Other
Maalik Wayns (meniscus surgery) out
Danny Granger (calf) out
Matt Barnes (torn retina) out

Chris Paul (hamstring) doubtful

J.J. Redick (wrist) out

The Back Story:

-- 02/28/13 in Indianapolis | Clippers 99, Pacers 91 | Recap | Box Score

-- 04/01/13 in Los Angeles | Pacers 109,Clippers 106 Recap | Box Score

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are on the cusp of a seven game east coast road trip, but before that difficult challenge, they have one last home game. Unfortunately, this home game will be far from an easy game -- not against the team with the best record in the NBA, and not with their starting backcourt banged up. The Clippers played the second half (and overtime) of their win in Sacramento without their first string guards, and it's unclear whether Chris Paul's sore hamstring or J.J. Redick's sprained wrist will allow them to play today. Redick's wrist isn't broken but I haven't heard any results from his MRI -- apparently the wrist was pretty swollen Friday night, which sounds like a problem for a shooter (yup, it's his shooting hand). Paul may be closer -- he was still entertaining playing in Sacramento right up until the pre-game shootaround. So maybe he'll be able to play today, but it's clear that the Clippers aren't going to take any chances. Jamal Crawford bailed the team out with a monster 31 point, 11 assist effort on Friday, but that's probably not going to happen against the Pacers. Against this formidable Indiana defense, the Clippers will need all their weapons, but especially their leader CP3.

The Antagonist:

The Pacers have been nothing short of dominant this season -- though it must be said that they've done so against the weakest schedule in the league. The next three weeks will tell us just how good the Pacers are, as they face several good Western Conference teams on their current road trip beginning today with the Clippers, and then play Miami twice when they return east. It's not exactly a shock that the Pacers are good -- they came within a game seven of the NBA Finals last May and have all of their team back. In fact, they've also had some quality depth, with Luis Scola coming off the bench in the front court, and the solid C.J. Watson playing the point. But the real improvement in the team seems to have come from within, as their young and talented wings, Paul George and Lance Stephenson have each made major leaps forward. George was already good last season when he was named to the Eastern Conference All Star team, but this year he's being discussed as an MVP candidate after a month of basketball. George won't win the MVP of course -- but the very fact that he's playing well enough to generate that sort of talk says a lot. He's been a monster on both sides of the ball, and if one of Indiana's weaknesses last year was the absence of a go-to guy, that's just not an issue anymore. And if George the MVP candidate weren't enough, the Pacers also have a leading DPOY candidate in Roy Hibbert, who's second in the NBA in blocked shots. So yeah, regardless of the strength of schedule so far, these guys are good.

The Subplots

  • The Questionable Blogger. As we like to do, Tom Lewis from Indy Cornrows, SB Nation's Pacers blog, and I exchanged some questions before the game. Be sure to check out both his answers to my questions, and my answers to his.
  • Comparison of key metrics. The Pacers have the best defense in the league by a wide margin. How wide? Try more than 12 points better than the league average in points allowed per 100 possessions. That's more than a little ridiculous. Then again, the Pacers have only played against two top 10 offenses this season, and they've yet to come up against an offense like the Clip Show, fourth in the league.
  • Baby blues. The Clippers are wearing their new baby blue uniforms with the short sleeves for Sunday home games this season. They wore them for the first time last week against the Bulls and won by 39. Somehow I don't think they'll maintain that same margin of victory in their second pajama party.
  • Schedule matters. The Pacers 15-1 record has been abetted massively by an absurdly easy schedule, the easiest schedule in the NBA to date. Now, it's not their fault that they've had an easy schedule, and they've certainly taken care of business against it. But we'll find out a LOT more about this Pacers team in the next three weeks, as they take a West coast road trip and then return back East to play Miami twice, than we learned in a November filled with really, really bad opponents.
  • Bad game to be hurting. Against the Pacers' stifling defense, the Clippers could certainly use their offensive catalyst and their best shooter. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that either Chris Paul or J.J. Redick will play in this game. If I had to guess, I'd say there's very little chance that Redick will play, but Paul could decide to give it a go.
  • Griffin. Blake Griffin scored his career high of 47 against the Pacers during his rookie season. That was of course a very different Pacers team, but if Paul and/or Redick are unable to play today, the Clippers could certainly use a big game from Griffin.
  • Wing issues. I don't expect Redick to play in this game, given how sore his wrist was on Friday. For a right handed shooter, a sprained right wrist is just not an injury you can ignore. With Matt Barnes still out, that takes two of the Clippers top four wings out of the rotation. The Clippers are deep on the wing -- Rookie Reggie Bullock has played well, and Willie Green is a consummate pro who's always ready and will play well enough given the opportunity. But Green is giving away a lot of size to either Paul George or Lance Stephenson, and Jamal Crawford is going to be challenged to stop either of them. If Redick can't play, Doc Rivers will undoubtedly use Crawford and Dudley down the stretch, with Dudley tasked with defending Fab2 (see below) -- if the Clippers are close at that point, they'll have a chance, but they may not be close.
  • Paul George nickname. More than any other player I can name, Paul George really, really, REALLY needs a nickname. Not just because he has burst onto the NBA as a tier one talent -- he just happens to have a name that is rife with possible confusion. You can't call him Paul, because it's a common first name -- and against the Clippers you could get him confused with Chris Paul. If you call him George, you run the risk of confusing him with his teammate George Hill (a problem that Blake Griffin and Steve Blake shared a couple of seasons ago). Even his initials are confusing -- whenever anyone writes about PG, I immediately assume they're talking about the point guard position so I always have to take a moment to realize that they mean Paul George. So yeah, dude needs a moniker. I'd like to propose Fab2 -- because he's half of the Fab 4 (John, Paul, George and Ringo).
  • Last meeting. The Clippers final regular season loss last year came against the Pacers in STAPLES Center. LA played terribly through almost three quarters of that game, falling behind by 24 points. They mounted a furious comeback, managing to get within a point, and had a couple of chances to tie the game, but ultimately came up short. Let's hope they don't fall behind big in this one.
  • Length over strength. Length is also the new mantra in the NBA in the past five or ten years, and one of the primary reasons that the Pacers are so good defensively is because they are so very long. Hibbert (7'2) is as long as anyone in the league and George (6'8), Stephenson (6'5) and Hill (6'2 with crazy long arms) give them long defenders on the perimeter, and West has long arms as well. It's Indiana's length, along with good schemes and good discipline of course, that make them such a great defensive team.
  • The 2010 wings. In the 2010 draft, the Clippers needed a wing, preferably a small forward. The consensus among draft watchers was that Evan Turner and Wesley Johnson were the best available wings, and with the Clippers picking eighth, they knew they'd have no shot at them. That left the Clippers to choose from a group that seemed difficult to differentiate -- Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward, Xavier Henry, Luke Babbitt and Paul George were all considered good but not great prospects. The Clippers went with Aminu at eight and the other four were snapped up with picks 9, 10, 12 and 16. Three seasons into their careers, Johnson abd Henry are busts on reclamation assignments with the Lakers; Turner is finally beginning to play well; Hayward is a solid player who has done well;  Aminu is a project at best; and Babbitt is out of the league. Meanwhile George, picked 10th, after Turner, Johnson, Aminu and Hayward, is an MVP candidate.
  • While we're regretting. Almost every draft features regrettable decisions. Two of the biggest misses for the Clippers in the past ten years  both because All Stars with the Pacers. In 2005 the Clippers picked Yaroslav Korolev 12th, leaving Danny Granger on the board for the Pacers at 17. In 2010, it was Aminu instead of George.
  • Connections. Darren Collison played two seasons in Indiana before where he was the starting point guard until the Pacers decided to go with George Hill instead. Former Clipper Rasual Butler is still in the NBA, sitting at the end of Indiana's bench. Chris Paul and David West were longtime teammates in New Orleans. For any Gauchos among the citizenry, Orlando Johnson of the Pacers is the first UCSB player in the NBA since Brian Shaw.
  • Get the Pacers perspective at Indy Cornrows.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Romeo and Juliet -- Act III, Scene 2 -- Juliet

    Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
    Towards Phoebus' lodging: such a wagoner
    As Phaethon would whip you to the west,
    And bring in cloudy night immediately.
    Spread thy close curtain, love-performing night,
    That runaway's eyes may wink and Romeo
    Leap to these arms, untalk'd of and unseen.
    Lovers can see to do their amorous rites
    By their own beauties; or, if love be blind,
    It best agrees with night. Come, civil night,
    Thou sober-suited matron, all in black,
    And learn me how to lose a winning match,
    Play'd for a pair of stainless maidenhoods:
    Hood my unmann'd blood, bating in my cheeks,
    With thy black mantle; till strange love, grown bold,
    Think true love acted simple modesty.
    Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;
    For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
    Whiter than new snow on a raven's back.
    Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow'd night,
    Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
    Take him and cut him out in little stars,
    And he will make the face of heaven so fine
    That all the world will be in love with night
    And pay no worship to the garish sun.
    O, I have bought the mansion of a love,
    But not possess'd it, and, though I am sold,
    Not yet enjoy'd: so tedious is this day
    As is the night before some festival
    To an impatient child that hath new robes
    And may not wear them. O, here comes my nurse,
    And she brings news; and every tongue that speaks
    But Romeo's name speaks heavenly eloquence.

    Apace, a somewhat archaic adverb meaning quickly, is a wonderfully Shakespeare-y word, don't you agree? It really deserves more use. I hereby vow to use 'apace' in the Pacers recap. And speaking of word play, did you notice that "Pacers recap" is a palindrome?
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