After winning the first two games of the season in different fashions, the Los Angeles Clippers hope to keep the mojo rolling in this third game. The team is the midst of a three game homestand and this will be the second of the tilts. Coming into town to play them will be the Sacramento Kings, their in-state neighbors from the capital. The Kings dismantled the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. How bad was it? Well, the Kings scored 58 points in the second half – and that was the good half for the Lakers defense.
Sacramento head coach George Karl made a strategic lineup change from their opening night game and he opted to start rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein. That move paid off in a huge way as the former Kentucky center finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 7-of-8 shooting while playing 30:11. He also had 5 fouls and that limited some of his time on the floor, but he was a dynamo and difference maker when he was on the court. The Clippers will have to keep tabs on him all night if they are to knock off the Kings once again.
This game comes down to power versus power, for the most part. The Kings got a resounding performance Rajon Rondo against the Lakers as the former champion totaled 21 points and 8 assists on 9-of-13 shooting. He even hit a three. It was that kind of night for Rondo. Darren Collison came off the bench and chipped in with 14 points of his own. Those two were a handful for a pitiful Lakers squad that played defense akin to that of a team looking to get their head coach fired. And maybe they are. Byron Scott is that terrible.
To combat those two point guards, the Clippers will go to their main man Chris Paul. Unfortunately for the team, Paul has struggled through two games this season. He’s only shooting 40.9 percent from the field and is just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc. The once trusty shot of Chris Paul is not there right now, but it should be coming soon. He’s 6-of-10 in the mid-range area and that’s the lone bright spot for the guy. Paul is still Paul despite some of the struggles he’s had. He’s commanding the game, directing where guys should be, and helping shut down opposing point guards. All of those things will be pivotal in this matchup.
The other power vs power matchup is the big boys inside. Against the Lakers, the starting combination of DeMarcus Cousins and Cauley-Stein worked beautifully. They combined for 38 points, 20 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The Clippers’ dynamic duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will have to not only match them, but outplay them. Cauley-Stein only played 8 minutes on opening night, so there wasn’t much footage of him to take from that game. Hopefully the team will do their homework prior to this meeting.
Cauley-Stein is a lot like Jordan. They’re both here to make a defensive impact, rim run, rebound, and be lengthy disruptors. There is a lot of a similarity between them. By having the original version, the Clippers do have an advantage. Jordan is one of the game’s best defenders and has helped the Clippers turn in great defensive efforts through the first two contests. The team has an overall Defensive Rating of 91.2, but see it become a staggeringly low 86.8 rating when Jordan is manning the middle. As of right now, you have to love that.
Through the first two games, Blake Griffin has been a Tour-de-force. 25-of-37 shooting is awesome. What’s even more awesome, though, is shooting 14-of-16 inside of 8 feet and 9-of-17 from 16-to-24 feet. The man has evolved and refined his game so much that he’s now turned into an eater of worlds. There might be no stopping Griffin when he gets going like this. Griffin has 59 points in 65 minutes this season, which comes out to 32.7 points per 36 minutes. He’s also averaging 9 rebounds and 3 assists per game while being this unstoppable as a scorer. He is the Kraken; devouring misguided ships and the souls onboard.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this game will be how the complimentary pieces play. It’s not fair to call Rudy Gay and J.J. Redick that, but they do take a backseat in this game considering the other storylines going on. They’re both quality scorers – Redick being the more efficient of the two since most of his stuff comes within a system rather than created for by himself – and they can each light up the scoreboard. It will be interesting to see how they do. Likewise with Lance Stephenson and Ben McLemore, each of whom have had different issues to start the year. Stephenson has been fine statistically, but has had hiccups mentally. McLemore has shot just 4-of-13 to start the year and has just 12 points in 45 minutes. He’ll have to pick it up for the Kings to possibly have a chance in this one.
Bench units will also be an interesting battle. Due to the Kings having played on Friday night, they come in on the second night of a back-to-back. However, only two players – Gay and Cauley-Stein – logged more than 30 minutes against the other Los Angeles squad. So their group of guys should be relatively fresh, or at least you would think. 9 different players played at least 20 minutes in that game, so the Kings possess a roster worthy of some fear. Omri Casspi, Kosta Koufos, and Marco Belinelli all present their own issues for an opponent. The Clippers bench must be up to task and battle them.
To combat those Sacramento reserves, the Clippers will send out Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, and Wesley Johnson. That has been the team’s second most used lineup of the season and they’ve totaled a Net Rating of +8.1 while somehow maintaining a Defensive Rating of 89.6 in 20 minutes. Hats off to them. However, they’ll have to continue that fine play against Sacramento. The bench did an awesome job on Thursday night to earn the starters a ton of rest, seeing as how only Griffin (26:47) and Jordan (25:53) logged more than 25 minutes.
This is one of those games the team cannot afford to lose. Last season, with a chance to go 3-0 to start the season, the Clippers got beaten by the Kings at STAPLES Center. It’s of the utmost importance that the team not slip and fall on their face again. After this game, the team will play against the Phoenix Suns before traveling to play the death machine known as the Golden State Warriors. Wins are vital, even early. Stay focused, stay prepared, and stay hungry. Don’t fall into the same trap you did last year. Go Clippers.
|2015/2016 NBA Regular Season|
|October 31, 2015 | 7:30 PM (PDT)|
|STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)|
|Prime Ticket, CSN-CA, NBATV, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Win-Loss Breakdown (2015-2016 Regular Season)|
|Rajon Rondo||PG||Chris Paul|
|Ben McLemore||SG||J.J. Redick|
|Rudy Gay||SF||Lance Stephenson|
|DeMarcus Cousins||PF||Blake Griffin|
|Willie Cauley-Stein||C||DeAndre Jordan|
|Advanced Stats (2015-2016 Regular Season)|
|108.66 (2nd of 30)||Pace||103.67 (7th of 30)|
|107.2 (5th of 30)||ORtg||105.3 (6th of 30)|
|104.9 (21st of 30)||DRtg||91.2 (7th of 30)|