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Clippers vs. Knicks Preview: Rebound Game

After getting systematically beaten down in Oklahoma City by the Thunder on Wednesday, the Clippers return home Friday for a contest against the mediocre Knicks.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2015/2016 NBA Regular Season

March 11th, 2016, 7:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, LA California
Win-Loss Breakdown
17-25 East 19-7
10-14 West 22-15
16-18 Home 21-11
11-21 Road 20-11
12-28 .500+ 19-17
15-11 .500- 22-5
4-6 L10 6-4
Probable Starters
Jose Calderon PG Chris Paul
Sasha Vujacic SG J.J. Redick
Carmelo Anthony SF Jeff Green
Kristaps Porzingis PF Paul Pierce
Robin Lopez C DeAndre Jordan
Advanced Stats
95.96 (25th of 30) Pace 98.55 (13th of 30)
102.7 (16th of 30) ORtg 106.2 (6th of 30)
105.0 (20th of 30) DRtg 100.5 (6th of 30)

Lance Thomas (knee) out

Blake Griffin (hand) out
Aaron Afflalo (abdomen) doubtful
Luc Mbah a Moute (eye) questionable

The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 1-0):

Date Venue Final

1/22/2016 Madison Square Garden, NY Clippers 116, Knicks 88 Recap Box Score

The Big Picture: After Wednesday night's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder the Clippers now find themselves 2.5 games back of the number 3 seed as well as down a tiebreak. With only 19 games left in the season, and with a very difficult stretch of games coming up, the 3 seed looks about out of reach. The Memphis Grizzlies are in the five spot and three and a half games behind the Clippers, but four and a half ahead of Portland. Basically, it looks like another Clippers-Grizzlies series is all but destined to happen, this time with the Golden State Warriors looming scarily in the 2nd round. When Luc Mbah a Moute comes back (which should be soon) the Clippers will be fully healthy minus one Blake Griffin. Sadly, he still hasn't begun contact yet, and his return is therefore at least a couple weeks away in all likelihood.

The Antagonist: The New York Knicks came into the season with playoff aspirations, hopes which were only boosted by a decent start and the play of their star rookie Kristaps Porzingis. Unfortunately they completely collapsed in the month before the All Star break, a collapse actually started by the Clippers. There were 22-22 before that game and have a 5-17 record since. Carmelo Anthony has been in and out of the lineup with various maladies, Porzingis hit the rookie wall, and somewhere along the way second year coach Derek Fisher was fired. Even more unfortunately for the Knicks, Fisher (a below average coach by all accounts) was replaced by none other than Kurt Rambis (one of the worst coaches in the last decade by all accounts). The Knicks continued their malaise after Fisher's firing, and while they have won two of their last three, they now sit in the 13th spot in the Eastern Conference and are 7 games out of the playoffs.

The Metrics: While the Clippers have had some up and down performances recently, they continue to rate as one of the better teams in the NBA, placing 6th in both offensive and defensive rating and 5th in Net Rating. The Knicks, on the other hand, are a paragon of mediocrity, placing almost smack in the middle offensively, and at the poor end of average defensively. The Knicks also play at one of the slowest paces in the NBA, partially because they like to run the triangle and post up, and partially because they have the oldest starting point guard in the NBA (Jose Calderon at 34). The Knicks have talent offensively but lack depth and shot creators, especially at the guard positions.

Three Six Latvia (Kristaps Porzingis): Porzingis was accumulating a ton of buzz earlier in the season, generating a host of nicknames, memes, and threats of bodily harm on Phil Jackson were he ever to part with the rookie. He has somewhat dropped off in the last month or so, though perhaps the lack of attention is due more to the Knicks plummeting in the standings than anything else. Kristaps is a good shooter, and should only improve as he becomes more adjusted to the NBA and builds up some strength. The most surprising aspect of his play has been rebounding and defense. He was a horrible rebounder in Europe, yet has averaged 7.3 in just 27.7 minutes of play. Not bad Kristaps. His height and ridiculous length makes him a huge bother on defense, and his ability to contest shots is stunning. Hopefully he doesn't light up Pierce or Green too badly in the post.

Knicks Still Need a Point Guard, What Else is New: As mentioned above, the Knicks start the oldest point guard in the league in Calderon. In the past few years he has declined from one of the more underrated players in the NBA to non-threatening spot up shooter. He is also an even worse defender than he was before, a truly incredible achievement. Jerian Grant was one of my favorite prospects in last years draft, and he has shown some flashes this year, but he hasn't been able to shoot at all. He has attempted over twice as many free throws as Calderon in around half as many minutes, and it might be a good plan to start him soon as the Knicks' playoff hopes finally dissipate. Langston Galloway was a true gem from the undrafted free agent pile last year, but he hasn't improved much and appears to be more of a two guard. The Knicks, therefore, continue to be vastly outmatched every game at the point guard position, just as they have been almost every year I can remember (outside of one glorious half season of Ray Felton under Mike D'Antoni).

Rebounds, Rebounds: This literally needs to be a "rebound" game for the Clippers. The Thunder outrebounded them by 23 and allowed only two offensive rebounds, both when the game was out of reach. DJ had a season low for rebounds with only seven, so expect him to be a beast on the boards tonight. The rebounding woes would be much helped by the return of Blake, but guys like Jeff Green and Paul Pierce simply have to get more rebounds. Robin Lopez is one of the better offensive rebounders in the NBA, and both Porzingis and Carmelo can rake in boards as well. The Clips need to hit the glass hard and box out.

The Knicks are Starting Sasha Vujacic!: The year is 2016 and Vujacic is somehow not only in the NBA, but starting. Rambis likes him for his pesky and aggressive defense. The only issue is that he isn't good. Like at all. Even with his out-of-this-world 23 point explosion against the Suns on Wednesday Sasha is only averaging 3.7 points per game on 34% shooting. Oh, and his aggressive defense leads to frequent blow-by's. J.J. Redick should have a field day.

The Knicks aren't awful, but they aren't good either, and the Clippers are at home after a bad loss. This shouldn't be close. Go Clips!