Something was different on Wednesday when the Clippers faced off against the Minnesota Timberwolves at STAPLES Center: they were only missing three of their starters. Danilo Gallinari struggled in his return from a left glute injury, but at least he was on the court, where he’ll hopefully be able to provide a much-needed scoring punch for the Clippers going forward. They’ll be without star forward Blake Griffin for at least a few more weeks, and starting point guard Patrick Beverley is done for the season following knee surgery, but they Clippers could be getting another starter back as soon as today, as Milos Teodosic has been upgraded from out to doubtful with a foot injury he suffered early in the season.
With or without Milos, the Clippers are going to have their hands full with the Washington Wizards at STAPLES Center. The Wizards are, of course, headlined by their outstanding guard duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall has been his normal stellar self, averaging 20 points and 9 assists per game, but Beal has really impressed this season, leading the team with 24 points per game and putting up remarkable 51 and 34-point performances in Washington’s last two games, both road victories.
To try to deal with Washington’s explosive scoring guards, look for Doc Rivers to bring Lou Williams off of the bench in this game, maximizing his minutes against backups like Jodie Meeks and Tim Frazier to try to hide him from the tougher defensive assignments. Even among the more capable perimeter defenders on the roster, though, it’s hard to see anyone putting up much of a fight—Austin Rivers, C.J. Williams, and Sindarius Thornwell are no match. It will be up to the Clippers to come up with enough offense to play competitively with the Wizards all night, which is where Gallinari (and potentially Teodosic) will be crucial.
Gallinari has always been one of the most efficient scoring weapons in the league, but he’s really struggled in a small sample size this season, averaging only 12 points per game on just 33% from the field and 26% from deep. He’s clearly much better than those numbers, and he’s only played 10 games, but the Clippers don’t have a ton of time to wait for him to get going—they’re already 7 games under .500, and while the Western Conference playoff race has been forgiving this season (they’re somehow only two losses behind 7th place Utah), they need to get going sooner rather than later if they’d like to be competitive this season.
One area where the Clippers have an advantage this game is at the center match-up. Marcin Gortat has been mediocre at best for the Wizards this season, and he’s in a run of terrible form on this road trip. That leaves room for DeAndre Jordan to make a big impact on both ends: attacking the offensive glass for easy buckets on offense, and roaming to help out his teammates defensively.
One last thing to look out for from the Wizards: while most of the offensive creation will come from the two guards, the Clippers could find themselves in a lot of trouble if their forwards help too much on defense. The Wizards start Otto Porter, Jr. and Markieff Morris at the forward positions, and they’re shooting 46% and 38% from deep respectively. Off the bench, they’ll bring in Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Mike Scott—who shoot 40% and 39% from deep.