Injuries have forced Doc Rivers to tinker with his starting lineup over the past few games. The Clippers have been without both J.J. Redick and Chris Paul for each of the last two outings, and neither seems likely to play when the Warriors come to L.A. Thursday night. If neither player is able to go, we're likely to see Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers in the starting lineup once again.
Rivers also announced on Wednesday that Paul Pierce will start at small forward against Golden State. Pierce started the Clippers' win over the Pistons last Saturday ahead of Lance Stephenson, who may have fallen out of favor. After playing at least 20 minutes in seven of L.A.'s first nine games, Lance was on the floor for just two minutes against Detroit. Following a brief stint early in the second quarter, he was never seen again.
Despite playing a season-high 30 minutes against the Pistons, Pierce had one of his least effective games of the season to this point. The 38-year-old connected on just one of his six attempts from the field to go along with three rebounds and three assists. He was hardly noticeable on either end of the floor.
Stephenson obviously has plenty of faults as a player, but it's a bit surprising to see his role decline so sharply, particularly when the Clippers are already shorthanded. He still can't hit a shot, but he's shown ability as a capable passer and defender. With CP3 out of the mix, LAC needs any playmaker it can find. At this point in his career, Pierce simply isn't that guy.
The starting small forward competition went on throughout training camp, with Stephenson ultimately impressing enough in the preseason to earn the nod over Pierce and Wesley Johnson. Pierce has played a lot of minutes so far this season at power forward, where he tends to struggle with bigger, more athletic competition. Johnson has been solid all season long in limited minutes, though one would imagine he'll see a larger role now that Stephenson seems to be on the fringe of the rotation.
If Redick and Paul remain sidelined Thursday, we can expect another heavy dosage of Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford on offense. The two combined to score 71 of the Clippers' 101 points in Saturday's win. Of course, the Warriors present a far tougher challenge than the Pistons did, so it will be quite the uphill climb for Los Angeles, regardless of what Rivers decides to do with the starting unit.