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Los Angeles Clippers at Washington Wizards Preview

Two of the best teams in the NBA clash in Washington on a Friday evening. In particular, it will be a matchup between two of the best point guards in the NBA as Chris Paul takes on John Wall.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

December 12th, 2014, 4:00 PM
Verizon Center
FS West, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG John Wall
J.J. Redick SG Bradley Beal
Matt Barnes SF Paul Pierce
Blake Griffin PF Kris Humphries
DeAndre Jordan C Marcin Gortat
Advanced Stats
96.1 (12th of 30) Pace 96.0 (15th of 30)
110.9 (3rd of 30) ORtg 104.1 (14th of 30)
102.7 (11th of 30) DRtg 99.2 (5th of 30)
Chris Douglas-Roberts (Achilles)
Martell Webster (back)
Reggie Bullock (Ankle)
Glen Rice (inactive)

Nene (foot) questionable

The Back Story (Clippers swept the Wizards 2-0)

-- 12/14/13 in Washington | Clippers 113, Wizards 97 | RecapBox Score

-- 01/29/14 in Los Angeles | Wizards 103, Clippers 110 | Recap | Box Score

Note: I apologize for the small font. As explained in the comments below, I was typing up this preview last night, clicked a few random keys on my keyboard, and all of a sudden everything on my computer looked different. Apparently it messed with the font too, and I don't know how to fix it. Apologies again. Editor's Note: I think I have it figured out. Steve

The Big Picture

The Clippers have won 9 games in a row after defeating the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. The Clippers were up big before allowing the Pacers to come back in the 4th quarter. DeAndre Jordan had a monster night on the boards with 19 rebounds, and Chris Paul dished out 15 assists to go with his 17 points. The Clippers are now 16-5. including 8-2 away from the friendly confines of Staples Center. After starting off the year relatively mediocre, they have regained their place as a contending level team and are close to the top of the Western Conference. Things are looking up, but tonight promises to be a stiff test.

The Antagonist

The Washington Wizards are tied for the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference, and have emerged as one of the few Eastern teams that can truly compete with the top of the West. They have done this despite injuries to starting guard Bradley Beal (missed the first 11 games of the season), starting power forward Nene (in and out with plantar fascitis), and backup wing Martell Webster, who remains out with a back injury. They are doing this largely based on the incredible play of John Wall, who continues to improve from his all star level play last season. Wall is averaging 18/10.5/5, and while his efficiency remains fairly poor and he turns the ball over too much, he is probably the 2nd best pure playmaker in the NBA behind one Chris Paul. The Wizards have received unlikely contributions from the end of their bench, with Rasual Butler emerging as a terrific wing reserve due to his unbelievable shooting from outside. The rest of their rotation is fairly solid too, though they have nobody on Wall's level. The Wizards are coming off a buzzer beating victory in Orlando on Wednesday courtesy of Bradley Beal, who has started off the year relatively slowly.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics ~ The Clippers have moved all the way up to 3rd in the NBA in terms of offensive efficiency, which makes sense when you look at their roster. However, they are going to be facing a tough defense in the Wizards, who are 5th in the NBA at that end of the floor. This continues a now 3 year trend of being a top defensive team for the Wizards, who have length and athleticism at most positions on the floor. On the other hand, the Clippers defense is sitting just outside the top 10 at 11, while the Wizards are a mediocre offensive team, ranked 14th. The Clippers and Wizards also play at almost identical paces, both around league average.Therefore, don't expect a very high scoring game.
  • Schedule ~ The Wizards are the 2nd stop in a three game Eastern Conference road trip, and will likely be the toughest of the lot, though the Bucks are surprisingly decent this year. In fact, the away game in Washington might be the most difficult challenge for the Clippers until they play the Spurs on the 22, after which the schedule gets much harder for a few games before entering another easy stretch. The Wizards face two more Western teams at home, and the Clippers are easily the strongest of the three squads. The Wizards also have some difficult games coming up, especially at the end of the month with road games at Houston, Dallas, OKC, and San Antonio.
  • Chris Paul vs John Wall ~ The premier matchup of the night will be between CP3 and John Wall at point guard. Chris is still the top point guard in the game in terms of playmaking, but Wall is as close as it gets. Wall is blazing quick and utilizes his speed to penetrate the key and dish to open shooters, especially on the break. He is also superb on the pick and roll, and is a lethal combination with Gortat. Paul has the advantage in terms of shooting and efficiency, but Wall has a size and athleticism edge. It should be an extremely fun night with those two going at it, as Paul always steps his game up against top competition.
  • X-Factor ~ Bradley Beal has been back from a wrist injury for about 10 games, but has had only a couple of explosive offensive performances. After he broke out in the playoffs last season, the Wizards had huge expectations, and he hasn't quite lived up to them so far. That is partly because of a decrease in usage with Pierce replacing Trevor Ariza and taking more possessions, and partly because of much increased attention from opposing defenses. Nonetheless, he is quite capable of taking over a game, especially if he gets hot from deep. Redick will need to stick to him, and bigs have to hedge on the pick and roll or he will nail it from range.
  • DeAndre Jordan- DJ had an incredible game against the Pacers on Wednesday, dominating Roy HIbbert and Lavoy Allen by grabbing 19 boards, including 6 offensive. He also had 3 blocks, impacting the game at both ends. He will need to put in a similar effort against Gortat, who is not as good defensively as Hibbert but is much more of a threat attacking the basket.
  • Rasual Butler-Former Clipper Rasual Butler has been absolutely scalding hot to start the season, shooting 53% from the field and 54% from 3, seemingly connecting on every attempt he takes. This is surprising since he has barely hung around the NBA for the past several years, and was signed by the Wizards during training camp as their 14th man. However, his hot shooting has enabled him to slip past both Garrett Temple and Otto Porter for primary duties as the backup wing player.
  • Andre Miller-Miller is the oldest player in the NBA at 38, and while he no longer has the speed he once did, and has lost all ability to shoot from outside, he is as crafty as ever. He also remains perhaps the best alley ooper in the NBA, as Wednesday's game winner demonstrates well.
  • Connections ~ Rasual Butler was on the Clippers for a year back in 2009, but the only current Clipper on the team back then was DeAndre Jordan and an injured rookie Blake Griffin. Paul Pierce is of course heavily connected to Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, as they were together for a handful of years in Boston, and won a title together. He was also a teammate of Glen Davis as that time. Marcin Gortat was a teammate of Hedo Turkoglu and JJ Redick back in the late 2000s on the Magic, when they made several deep playoff runs. Andre Miller was also a Clipper way back in the day in 2002, before most of the players in this game were even in the NBA.
  • Wikipedia Entry ~ Wizard Nebula: It is an open cluster of stars discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1787. It is in the Cepheus constellation and is very hard to see visually, requiring very dark skies. It is also known as NGC 7380.
  • Bullets Forever- For the Wizards perspective on the game, you can head on over there and discuss it with them.