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The season is young, yet Doc Rivers is already finding his starting guards side-by-side on the injury report for the second time in 20 games. Chris Paul missed last night's game with a rib injury, while J.J. Redick left the game after a nasty ankle sprain on the first possession of the game.
Of the Clippers' 19 games to date, Paul has missed 4 and Redick has missed 3 (and was about 18 seconds away from his 4th last night). The Clippers are 1-3 in games without Redick, 1-3 in games without Paul, and 1-1 in games without both (the "1" in all of those is Jamal Crawford's 37-point explosion vs Detroit). Without those two, the spacing really, really suffers, making it harder for everyone else on the team to produce offensively.
Who else is there to space the floor? Mbah a Moute is both too scared and too slow to get shots off when left open, Wesley Johnson is glued to the bench, and nobody else can hit shots: Josh Smith (27.8%), Paul Pierce (25.9%), Jamal Crawford (25.7%), Austin Rivers (22.6%), and Pablo Prigioni (15.4%) are all below average. Lance Stephenson, at 42.3% on the season, is the only healthy perimeter guy in the rotation who's shooting a good percentage, and he's a slasher, not a spot-up floor spacer.
That means that not only should you probably slide Paul and Redick over to the bench for the time being, but it might be a good time to give any other Clippers you have a break. Blake Griffin struggled badly last night, facing double and triple-teams, and unless someone in the supporting cast can force the defense to respect their outside shooting, it's gonna continue to be rough nights for Griffin for as long as Paul and Redick are out.
One guy to keep an eye on is Lance Stephenson. He's been playing well lately, with lines of 10-5-4, 9-6-3, 2-10-3, and 19-3-3 in his last four games. As long as he keeps playing well, he'll get plenty of minutes and touches with the Clippers' two main guards out. Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers are also guys to keep an eye on--they've both been inconsistent and inefficient but they also both have the potential to explode for 20+ if given enough minutes and touches.
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