|2015-16 NBA Regular Season
|December 2, 2015 — 7:30 PM PT
|STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)
|NBATV, Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
|Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
|Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
|Efficiency Stats ('15-16)
Myles Turner (Thumb) Out
|Chris Paul (Rib muscle) Questionable
What's up with Chris Paul?
The Clippers have endured a number of injuries through the season's first 18 games, with Chris Paul having suffered through a number of them himself. In addition to the finger fracture he sustained during the preseason and the groin strain he continues to fight through, the Clips' star point guard strained a rib muscle during L.A.'s win over Portland Monday night. Officially, it's labeled as "inflamed rib cartilage." The team said after the game that CP3 will be reevaluated ahead of tonight's game with the Pacers, but he's listed as "questionable" for now. If he's out, either Austin Rivers or Pablo Prigioni seem likely to draw the start.
What's new with the Pacers?
Indiana's 2014-15 season was essentially derailed before it started due to the brutal leg injury Paul George suffered playing with Team U.S.A. over the summer. They failed to make the playoffs a year ago, and the front office decided they needed to try something new this summer. The Pacers had become known as one of the NBA's top defensive teams, but Larry Bird and co. felt they needed to start playing at a faster pace if they want to keep up with the rest of the league. As a result, they jettisoned defensive-minded center Roy Hibbert to the Lakers and signed Monta Ellis as a free agent.
Indy drafted Myles Turner to be Hibbert's long-term replacement. Turner is a rare blend of shooting and shot-blocking ability that seems to fit perfectly with the pace-and-space style the Pacers want to play. Following a strong start, though, Turner suffered a thumb injury that will keep him out for another several weeks.
The team has also tried playing Paul George at power forward despite George's open reluctance. Head coach Frank Vogel has shown that he'll adjust his starting lineup based on the matchup. If Indiana is facing a team that likes to go small in the frontcourt, then George typically starts at the four. Given the Clippers' size, though, George may start at small forward with Jordan Hill sliding into the starting five.
They've flown under-the-radar so far, but the Pacers are quietly playing great basketball of late. They currently sit in the No. 2 spot in the East behind Cleveland, and their defense remains stingy even without Hibbert in the fold. George will come into this game as the freshly-minted Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Indiana went 3-0 last week with PG-13 averaging a tidy 37.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals. Not too shabby.
Indiana comes into this game ranked No. 2 in the league (behind the Warriors, of course) in team three-point shooting percentage. The Pacers are connecting on a ridiculous 40% of their triple tries, which could prove problematic for the Clippers. LAC has been building a house of bricks from three this season, hitting just under 33% of them as a team. George Hill, C.J. Miles and George are all hitting at least 42% from deep, which is absurd. By comparison, J.J. Redick is the only Clipper (with a qualified number of attempts) hitting threes at a 40%+ clip thus far.
What's new with the Clippers?
Luc Mbah a Moute has started consecutive games at small forward, and it seems logical to assume Doc Rivers will start him again tonight. Luc has been very solid to this point, and he may be the Clips' best option for defending Paul George. Honestly, he may be the only option. Who else is there? Wesley Johnson may be able to match-up from a length and athleticism standpoint, but he's played a grand total of nine minutes over the last two games combined. Doc clearly isn't overly confident in him at this point.
We may see Paul Pierce trying to defend George at times, which is legitimate nightmare fuel as far as the Clippers are concerned. If that happens, it'll be a bloodbath. Lance Stephenson may get a crack at defending his former teammate, but Lance is giving up at least six inches to PG. Do you really want to force Blake Griffin to try and guard him? Mbah a Moute is easily the best candidate.
Matchup to watch
DeAndre Jordan vs. Ian Mahinmi
DeAndre Jordan is coming off a crazy/weird game against the Blazers. He finished with season-highs in both points (18) and rebounds (24) while shooting a career-high 34 (!!!) free throws, making 12. Despite the game likely being out of reach with Damian Lillard sidelined, Terry Stotts hacked Jordan relentlessly throughout the fourth quarter Monday night. DJ shot 18 of his free throws in that quarter alone, all between the 3:50 and 2:18 marks of the frame. Portland began hacking with a 16-point deficit, and trailed by 17 once the hacking ceased. Good work, Terry! Jordan's 34 FTAs were the third-most by any one player in a regular season game in the history of the league. Only Dwight Howard (39, twice) has shot more.
Speaking of hacking, the Lakers attempted the hack-a strategy with Ian Mahinmi late in Sunday's game, as well. Mahinmi was intentionally fouled on three straight Pacer possessions, and wound up hitting four-of-six free throws. Vogel then removed Mahinmi from the game in order to halt the absurdity. The Lakers entered the hacking trailing 89-83, and came out of it trailing 93-87. Failure.
With Jordan and Mahinmi being two of the very worst free throw shooters in the league, will we see the duel hack-a strategy employed in this one, a la the Houston playoff series from last year? Please, no. Please. PLEASE.
Indiana has had plenty of injury issues of their own, but their bench has performed pretty well thus far in spite of that. Lavoy Allen, Jordan Hill, Solomon Hill and Chase Budinger have all performed admirably despite not having defined, regular roles. Vogel possibly going big with the starters would likely mean C.J. Miles will be added to the bench mob, which gives them a stellar second unit scoring option. Miles is enjoying a career year to this point, averaging 15.4 points on 43% shooting from deep.
As mentioned above, Doc Rivers will have to do more lineup jumbling if Paul is sidelined. The much-maligned bench has looked a bit more cohesive of late, thanks in large part to Lance Stephenson's uptick. The former Pacer has done a little bit of everything over the last three games, averaging seven points, seven rebounds and just over three assists in 21 minutes a game. He grabbed 10 boards in just 17 minutes Monday against Portland. He's given the Clipper bench a spark that they clearly lacked through the first several games. He'll probably be amped to be playing his old team, so here's hoping he can manage to keep it relatively in-check and play under control.
Game day song of choice
When you think of Indiana music, a pretty obvious name immediately comes to mind...
Michael Jackson, duh. We'll go with "Black or White". The Clippers' new white uniforms are ok, and their new black uniforms aren't awful. I mean, they're not GOOD, but they're not awful. The red ones, though...those are not good at all. Feel free to never wear those again, Clippers. Black or white. That's it.
Here's another noteworthy Indiana-affiliated band, just for fun:
Guns N' Roses! Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin were both born in Lafayette, Indiana. Shockingly, those aren't their real names. We're headed into December, so may as well put a cap on November with a little "November Rain". Also, sheesh, Indiana. Neither of these acts have been particularly relevant for a while now. Time to get some fresh blood up there, you guys.
The Clips and Pacers get it going from STAPLES Center at 7:30pm Pacific. Indiana comes in having won five straight, while the Clippers have won three in-a-row. Something's gotta give!