Clippers-Wizards preview: Salvaging the trip

USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers are on their final stop of a seven game road trip that hasn't gone exactly as they wanted, however they can salvage a winning record on the trip with a win in Washington against the Wizards.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season
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15-9

9-12
December 14th, 2013, 4:00 PM
Verizon Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG John Wall
Willie Green SG Trevor Ariza
Jared Dudley SF Martell Webster
Blake Griffin PF Trevor Booker
DeAndre Jordan C Marcin Gortat
Advanced Stats
98.06 (8th of 30) Pace 95.58 (19th of 30)
104.9 (8th of 30) ORtg 99.4 (23rd of 30)
100.7 (8th of 30) DRtg 100.9 (10th of 30)
Injuries/Other
J.J. Redick (wrist) out
Bradley Beal (sore leg) out
Matt Barnes (torn retina) out
Al Harrington (strained knee) out
Reggie Bullock (sprained ankle) out
Nene (foot) questionable
Maalik Wayns (meniscus surgery) out

The Back Story (teams split the season series last year, one game each):

-- 01/19/13 in Los Angeles | Clippers 94, Wizards 87 | Recap | Box Score

-- 02/04/13 in Washington, DC | Wizards 98, Clippers 90 | Recap | Box Score

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have a lot of little things hanging on the outcome of this game. They are currently 3-3 on this trip, 7-7 on the road overall, and 5-6 against the Eastern Conference. A win tonight let's them salvage a winning record on the trip, and keeps the above water on the other marks as well. A loss gives them a losing trip, a losing road record, and a losing record against the East. It's just one game of course, but a win would let them feel better about themselves heading back home. Of course, the final game of a long road trip is never easy, so the Clippers will have to deal with that. They'll also have to contend with the fact that they have suddenly become a very bad offensive team, owing mostly to the fact that they can't make a jump shot. Since J.J. Redick left the lineup, the Clippers can't shoot -- and it's not just Redick's replacement, Willie Green. Green, Jared Dudley and Jamal Crawford are all in terrible shooting slumps, and I learned a long time ago both watching and playing basketball, that it's easier to win when you can make some shots. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both off of their November numbers also, as the entire team is in a funk. I keep thinking they're going to burst out any moment -- but it hasn't happened. In their last nine games, they've had an effective field goal percentage under .500 in eight of them.

The Antagonist:

The Wizards were started to look like the third or fourth best team in the East -- which isn't saying much, but still it's something -- after winning seven games out of nine, but then they lost three in a row, including last night's overtime loss in Atlanta. That's important of course, because even though the Clippers are the road team at the end of a seven game trip, it's the Wizards who played overtime yesterday and traveled last night. John Wall seems to be coming into his own in this his fourth season after missing almost half of last season with stress injury in his knee. He's averaging career highs in points and assists, and though he's not shooting a very high percentage, he has hit some big shots for the team this season. The Wizards are one of the few teams in the East not actively trying to tank, and they made a big move just before the season began to pick up Marcin Gortat, giving them an interesting lineup featuring some good young guards (though Bradley Beal is currently injured) and some really productive bigs (Gortat and Nene). Looking at the roster, you would expect this to be one of the better teams in the East, so I think you have to put them in the "disappointment" category so far, even though they were at .500 less than a week ago.

The Subplots

  • Clippers watch party at Hooters. Our friends at the Hooters in Santa Monica are having a watch party for this game. They'll have 20% off food and merchandise for everyone wearing Clippers gear, and they'll also have raffle prizes. They'll also be handing out Clippers VIP cards so you can get deals during any Clippers game there. So head on out to the Hooters in Santa Monica (321 Santa Monica Blvd) to watch the game.
  • Comparison of key metrics. We could see it coming, but still it's difficult to fathom -- improved defense and terrible offense over the last three weeks has had the Clippers efficiency numbers moving in opposite directions, and as of now they are eighth in the league in each category. During the first month of the season it seemed completely certain that the Clippers were destined to be a great offensive team and mediocre at best on defense. But as of this moment, they're the same on each side of the ball, relatively to the rest of the league. Bizarre. Washington on the other hand is a top ten defense, and a bottom ten offense.
  • Best point guard in the NBA. John Wall recently said that he was the best point guard in the NBA. That's fine. Point guards have to have a ton of confidence, it's part of the job description. The best point guard in the NBA will be in this game -- but it's not John Wall. Oh, and Chris Paul reads, so you might expect him to have a little extra incentive.
  • Jamison returns. With Clipper Antawn Jamison having just surpassed the 20,000 point threshold for his career, and given that his best seasons game during his almost six years in Washington, it would be nice if the Washington organization and fans would recognize Antawn's feat in some way tonight.
  • Washington's bigs. Nene is nursing a sore foot and missed the game in Atlanta last night. I have not heard whether he will play against the Clippers. The Wizards have a lot of bigs on their roster though. If Nene is ready, they'll start the biggest pair of bigs since the Rockets benched Omer Asik in Gortat and Nene. They also have three recent first round picks, Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin. In fact, in a purely theoretical exercise, looking for teams with a glut of bigs who might make good trade partners in the Clippers search for help off the bench in the front court, I kept coming back to the Wizards. Booker and Seraphin will both be free agents, and Booker would actually fit into the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe trade exception (and just under the hard cap, if they don't keep Stephen Jackson too long). But it's not as if the Clippers have anything to offer the Wizards. Like I said, just a theoretical exercise.
  • Ariza. Trevor Ariza had been on a tear recently. He scored 24, 24 and 22 in consecutive games while hitting 14-20 from beyond the three point line. He's since cooled off, scoring 24 total in his last two games and hitting 3-11 threes.
  • Otto Porter. The Wizards lottery pick, Otto Porter, was chosen third overall in the June draft. He missed the start of the season with a hip injury, and finally made his NBA debut a week ago. He's played three games, 37 minutes, is 2-9 from the field and has seven rebounds. He'll probably score 20 against the Clippers.
  • Shooting, shooting, shooting. I really don't have much to say about this game. The Clippers have got to start making shots if they want to give themselves a chance to win games. I could talk about matchups, defending the pick and roll, and a bunch of other stuff. But it won't matter if they keep shooting in the 30s and low 40s. You can't win games that way. There's no real answer. Doc Rivers can't call a time out and say "shoot better." I mean, he can, but I would assume that they're trying to make shots even without being told to. You could argue that they need to look for better shots -- but it's really not true; they're getting plenty of good looks, but they just keep missing them. They'll break out at some point -- could be in this one?
  • Connections. Antawn Jamison had his most productive seasons in Washington, twice making the All Star team. 8,736 of his 20,006 career points were scored in a Wizards uniform. Trevor Ariza was a teammate of Chris Paul and Willie Green in New Orleans. Former Clipper Sam Cassell is a Wizards assistant coach.
  • Get the Washington perspective at Bullets Forever.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Richard III -- Act I, Scene 1 -- George Plantagenet

    Yea, Richard, when I know; for I protest
    As yet I do not: but, as I can learn,
    He hearkens after prophecies and dreams;
    And from the cross-row plucks the letter G.
    And says a wizard told him that by G
    His issue disinherited should be;
    And, for my name of George begins with G,
    It follows in his thought that I am he.
    These, as I learn, and such like toys as these
    Have moved his highness to commit me now.
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