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Preview: Clippers conclude homestand against Nuggets

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The Los Angeles Clippers will look to finish their short homestand 3-1 with a win over the Nuggets Wednesday night.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
vs
Denver Nuggets (22-35)

Los Angeles Clippers (37-19)
February 24, 2016 — 7:30 PM PT
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
22-35 Record 37-19
11-10 East 18-6
11-25 West 19-13
4-9 Division 6-5
11-17 Home 19-9
11-18 Road 18-10
10-22 .500+ 13-15
12-13 .500– 24-4
1-2 OT 4-1
4-6 L10 7-3
Projected Starters
Emmanuel Mudiay
PG Chris Paul
Gary Harris SG J.J. Redick
Danilo Gallinari SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Kenneth Faried PF Paul Pierce
Nikola Jokic C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
98.0 (15th) Pace 98.4 (12th)
102.0 (20th) OffRtg 106.6 (5th)
105.6 (23rd) DefRtg 100.6 (7th)
-3.6 (25th) NetRtg 6.0 (5th)
Injury Report
Jameer Nelson (Wrist) Questionable

Austin Rivers (Hand) Out

Blake Griffin (Hand) Out

What's new with the Clippers?

The Clips were able to rebound from Saturday's disappointing loss to the Warriors with Monday's thumping of the hapless Suns. There isn't a whole lot to be taken from a game the Clippers should've won as easily as they did, but Jeff Green clearly looked more comfortable in his second contest with the club. Getting him up to speed as quickly as possible is vital in both the short and long term. LAC obviously needs all hands on deck with Griffin sidelined for the foreseeable future. They're also going to need to get as much as possible out of everyone in the rotation if they have any real hope of being able to compete with Golden State and San Antonio come playoff time. Yes, it was against Phoenix, but his 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the floor was a positive step.

What's new with the Nuggets?

The Nuggets remain a mediocre team, though they're finally starting to show signs of having some serious potential in the next few years. They upgraded their coaching situation considerably by replacing Brian Shaw with Mike Malone during the offseason, and have also quietly built a very impressive young roster. Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried aren't new names, but the collection of Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Will Barton and Jusuf Nurkic gives the Nuggets an extremely talented foundation on which to build. Considering the 27-year-old Gallinari is the oldest player in this group, it's easy to see why Denver may be a force before too long.

The main issue facing this group is that there may not be a superstar among them. You can build a roster full of nice, solid players (see the Celtics), but teams that win championships tend to be built on star power. Jokic and Mudiay, in particular, each absolutely have superstar ceilings, but ascension to superstardom isn't something you can bank on. The ultimate outcome for Denver may be to deal a few of them for an established stud.

There was a ton of talk leading up to the trade deadline that the Clippers had engaged the Nuggets (or vice versa) on a potential trade involving a gaggle of those players coming to Los Angeles in exchange for Blake Griffin. ESPN's Chris Broussard (I know, take this with the biggest grain of salt you can find) reported that Doc Rivers proposed a Griffin and Lance Stephenson offer that would've landed the Clippers Barton, Faried, Gallinari and Jokic. Broussard says Denver rejected this, and rightfully so. The idea of trading Blake is an unpopular one (for a good reason) among Clipper fans, but this deal would've been highway robbery for LAC. Griffin is the kind of player the Nuggets should want to build around, but the price they were reportedly asked to pay was far too steep.

Matchup to watch

DeAndre Jordan vs. Nikola Jokic

Jokic hasn't drawn the headlines that fellow rookies Karl-Anthony Towns or Kristaps Porzingis have, but, as mentioned above, the Nuggets have found something with him. He's incredibly polished for a guy that just turned 21 a few days ago, and his offensive game stretches all over the floor. Jokic has a refined post game but can also shoot from deep, as evidenced by his 39% three-point shooting this season. Per 36 minutes, the Serbian is averaging 17.3 points, 10.8 boards and nearly two steals. By all accounts he's also made tremendous strides defensively from where he was early in the season. In the previous meeting between the clubs this season, Jokic scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds in 24 minutes in only his third start.

Jokic's floor-stretching ability could cause some problems for Jordan and the Clipper defense. D.J. doesn't like to roam too far from the paint defensively, and when he does the floor opens up for opposing teams. LAC has been switching quite often on pick-and-rolls involving D.J.'s man of late and it's gotten them into some matchup trouble. Jordan on an island against a quicker guard or one of the Clippers' perimeter players trying to bang with Jokic down low are scenarios L.A. will need to avoid.

Malone employs a conservative defensive scheme with his bigs sagging off of pick-and-roll coverage. As the Nuggets try and prevent the lob chances for Jordan, this should result in countless midrange opportunities for Chris Paul, who will happily oblige.

DeAndre and the rest of the Clippers will also need to make a concerted effort to keep the Nuggets off the offensive glass. Denver ranks fifth in the NBA in offensive rebound rate this season, with the indefatigable Kenneth Faried (8th in ORR) and Jokic (21st) leading the charge. The Clippers aren't one of the better rebounding teams in the league even with Griffin in the lineup, and Paul Pierce in particular may have his hands full trying to wrangle Faried. With Faried sidelined due to injury when these teams met in November, Gallinari, who only averages about five rebounds a game on the year, went nuts on the boards in the first meeting, grabbing 18.

Battle of the bench

Denver's main firepower off-the-bench comes courtesy of Will Barton. The 25-year-old Barton's enjoying a breakout campaign with the Nugs, averaging about 15 points and six rebounds a game while connecting on 37% of his triple tries. His paper-thin frame and microwave scoring ability is reminiscent of Jamal Crawford, though the Clippers were able to keep him in check the last time they faced him. Barton was held to just a single point on 0-for-6 shooting from the floor in L.A.'s 111-94 win a few months back. The Nuggets don't get a ton of production from reserves other than Barton, though you'll see a nice Joffrey Lauvergne or Jusuf Nurkic game pop up every now and again.

He may eventually move into the starting lineup, but for now, LAC's bench can be bolstered offensively by Jeff Green. We know the Clips' reserve unit can be prone to offensive dry spells (particularly when Crawford is off), and having another option capable of piling up points is a nice luxury. The bench put forth a strong effort in the win over the Suns, with seven players combining to score 52 points.

Denver area celebrity we should all irrationally hate for a few hours

Tim Allen

Remember Tim Allen? He was famous once upon a time. Maybe he's still famous? Who knows? Based on a quick perusal of his IMDB page, the only worthwhile thing he's done since the 90s is voice Buzz Lightyear a few times. Other than that, he's made a few wack Christmas movies and several of those midlife crisis comedies where older guys start trying to act all young. I've never heard of this "3 Geezers!" thing, but that photo alone is enough to draw the conclusion that it's probably the movie thing ever. In fact, one of its reviews on Rotten Tomatoes says, "It is a remarkably unattractive-looking movie." OK!

Tim was born in Denver, so let's irrationally hate him for a few hours while the Clips take on the Nuggets.

Game day song(s) of choice

John Denver appeared in this space for the preview of the first matchup between these teams. Is he coming back for an encore?!

via GIPHY

Yes! Let's do this!

Wonderful.

The Lumineers are also from Denver. Here's a new and good song.

The Clippers will try and improve to 2-0 against the Nuggets this season starting at 7:30 Pacific. Come talk about it with us in the Game Thread.