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Clippers vs. Nuggets: Game Preview

Coming off the high of a game-winning shot against the Trailblazers, the Clippers must take care of business at home against a young and feisty Nuggets squad.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
2015-16 NBA Regular Season
Denver Nuggets (31-42)

Los Angeles Clippers (44-27)
March 27, 2016 — 12:30 PM PT
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
31-42 Record 44-27
15-15 East 20-8
16-27 West 24-19
4-9 Division 7-6
17-19 Home 23-12
14-23 Road 21-15
15-29 .500+ 22-18
16-13 .500– 22-9
2-4 OT 4-1
6-4 L10 4-6
Projected Starters
Emmanuel Mudiay
PG Chris Paul
Gary Harris SG J.J. Redick
JaKarr Sampson SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Darrell Arthur PF Paul Pierce
Nikola Jokic C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
98.37 (13th) Pace 98.28 (14th)
103.0 (18th) OffRtg 106.0 (6th)
106.0 (22nd) DefRtg 101.6 (7th)
-3.0 (23rd) NetRtg 4.3 (6th)
Injury Report

Kenneth Faried (Back) Questionable

Wilscon Chandler (Hip) Out

Danilo Gallinari (Ankle) Out

Blake Griffin (Quad) Out

Season Series: Tied at 1-1

November 24 at Denver Clips win 111-94 Box Score
February 24 in Los Angeles Nuggets win 87-81 Box Score
March 27 in Los Angeles .........

The Big Picture: The Clippers playoff picture is almost completely set in stone at this point. Barring a complete collapse by them or the Grizzlies, the two rival teams will be clashing in the first round, with the Clips controlling home court. Memphis is 4 games up on Portland and Los Angeles is 4 games up on them, so with around 10 games left there just isn't much time for any team involved to make a push. Unfortunately, the Clippers are also 5.5 games back of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 3 seed, which means a date with the Warriors in the 2nd round (if the Clippers make it, of course) is almost a certainty. The Clippers have been struggling of late, going 4-6 in their last 10 and dropping games to very weak teams, but at this point it probably won't matter. They just need to right themselves for the playoffs.

The Antagonist: The Denver Nuggets have had a pretty successful year despite injury issues and a mediocre record. After an awful first few months in the NBA, rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has improved steadily, scoring more points per game at a much higher efficiency after the All Star Break. He is joined in the backcourt by sophomore Gary Harris, who had an unbelievably awful rookie campaign. This year has been much different. While still not exactly lighting the world on fire from deep (34.4% from 3), he has been very productive inside the arc, and contributed at least a little in other categories. The true stunner, however, has been rookie center Nikola Jokic, who is averaging a 10/6.6/2.3 in 20 minutes per game (that comes out to 17.3/11.3/3.9 per 36 minutes). Jokic can attack off the dribble, shoot threes, pass the ball, and even run the fastbreak. If Karl Anthony Towns wasn't a thing this rookie season, Jokic would have a decent shot at rookie of the year (with competition from Booker and Porzingis). The only other real player of note is Will "The Thrill" Barton, who is an explosive scorer off the bench. The rest of their roster is a mix of veterans and somewhat less promising young players (though both Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne could be really good in a couple years).

The Metrics: The Clippers have fallen down the rankings a little bit in advanced statistics. When they played the Nuggets about a month ago they had a Net Rating of 6.0. This has now dropped to 4.3, which is still good for 6th in the NBA. The Nuggets aren't good on either end of the court, though they aren't terrible offensively. The Clippers should be able to pile up points, but in their last meeting were only able to put up a meager 81. Things should be different this time.

JaKarr Sampson: When I did the preview for the 76ers game a couple months ago, I poked fun at them for starting JaKarr. And now he is on the Nuggets, starting for a team that will end up with probably ~35 wins! JaKarr has moved to small forward, where his lack of shooting hurts a little bit less, though he remains significant mostly because another NBA team picked up one of the Philly leftovers after they were cut. But seriously, JaKarr is pretty athletic, he plays with a lot of energy, and he might actually drop double figures on the Clips tonight. I wouldn't be surprised, anyway.

Glut of Young Bigs: The Nuggets somehow stockpiled Jokic, Nurkic, and Lauvergne in the past couple years, all of whom would be the prized young big man on any other team. Instead, depending on how they look in the next couple years, one of them will probably be sent elsewhere for talent at a different position. Right now, Jokic is probably off the table completely (outside of a huge blockbuster), but even the other two would need a pretty high ransom. The Nuggets are gonna be good in a few years.

Blake Remains Out (UPDATE): Not only is Blake out, he still doesn't have an official timetable to return. With only 10 games left in the season (after this one), time is running out for him to return before the playoffs.Blake is returning to practice today! Of course, he still needs several practices before he is even activated, but this means he should get his four game suspension in before the playoffs starts.

Clippers' Strategy: To win this game the Clips just need to attack. The Nuggets don't play good defense, and their young guards, talented as they are, don't have a prayer at stopping Chris Paul or J.J. Redick. Obviously the Clips will need to play defense as well, but I think playing at home after a big win will rejuvenate both them and the crowd. I expect the Clippers will actually blow the Nuggets out in this one, but we shall see.