When: 7:30pm PST
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
How to Watch/Listen: ESPN, Fox Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: (G) Jawun Evans, (G) Lou Williams, (F) C.J. Williams, (F) Wesley Johnson, (C) DeAndre Jordan
Warriors: (G) Shaun Livingston, (G) Patrick McCaw, (F) Kevin Durant, (F) Draymond Green, (C) Zaza Pachulia
Clippers: Blake Griffin (concussion), Austin Rivers (ankle), Danilo Gallinari (glute), Milos Teodosic (foot), Patrick Beverley (knee)
Warriors: Stephen Curry (ankle), Klay Thompson (rest)
The Big Picture
The disparity between how shorthanded the LA Clippers are and the how tough their matchup will be has never been greater. They are about to face the first-place Golden State Warriors, in Oakland, without the services of Blake Griffin, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, Milos Teodosic, and Patrick Beverley. DeAndre Jordan is the lone available starter, with Lou Williams set to take on the largest scoring load of any Clipper. A patchwork comprised largely of newcomers, rookies, and two-way contracts will round out the rotation, making it tough to even be competitive at both ends of the floor.
Partly thanks to a friendly schedule, though, the Clippers are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Clippers have managed to come within reach of 8th place in the Western Conference despite their overall health, winning many games by closing the talent gap with sheer effort and grit.
The Warriors are the best team in the league, okay? Let’s move on...
Lou Williams has been playing basketball at an exceptional level lately (our own Robert Flom made the excellent case that Lou Williams should be an All-Star). This season, Lou Williams is averaging 22.2 points, 4.9 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44.4% from the field, 40.7% from behind the arc, and 90.3% from the line. He’s done this all primarily as a reserve, and he’s been a handful for opposing defenses. When he sees a lane, he slashes to the rim. When he gets double-teamed, he finds an open man or manages to maneuver out. When he’s given any space beyond the arc, he’ll shoot a three. And if he’s allowed to move left into a rhythm three, contested or not, he’s basically automatic. For some added perspective, he’s 67th in the NBA in minutes per game, yet he is 15th in three point attempts (6.8) and 13th in three point makes per game (2.8). In the new year, he’s been scoring an average of 29 points per game, ranking third in the NBA during this span; only Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan are ahead of him. Look for Williams to continue his scoring trend tonight against the Warriors. He’s also good for some pretty timely lobs to DeAndre Jordan.
Not Exactly What the Doc Ordered
Neither fans nor Doc Rivers probably ever envisioned that a regular season Clippers rotation would consist of four rookies against the Warriors. But thanks to a multitude of injuries, here we are.
CJ Williams, who is approaching the 45-day deadline on his two-way contract, has done an outstanding job in a variety of minutes and roles. Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell have been plugged into both starting and reserve units, sometimes playing mere garbage time minutes; they’ve struggled to maintain consistency and avoid foul trouble, but it has never been for lack of effort. Tyrone Wallace, recently placed on a two-way deal and called up from the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, has taken full advantage of the opportunity to help this team and display his all-around skillset.
These first-year NBA players all deserve credit for the hard work they’ve put in and for all they continue to do. But give Doc a ton of credit. What has been most remarkable, rather than the results, is the unwavering level of effort this team has been displaying. He’s taken a ton of criticism for his roster decisions concerning first-year players in the past, but Doc has managed to keep the Clippers’ ship afloat in pretty choppy waters.
Don’t watch tonight’s game because you are somehow holding out hope that the Clippers will eke out a win. They won’t. Do watch tonight’s game because, even in their losses this season, this Clippers team has been fun to watch. And they’ve played harder than they’ve ever played before. This is a young team that is still learning, still early in the process of formulating an identity. The Clippers, despite the presence of some notable veterans, are forging a new path. Every night you are guaranteed to see something you never saw before. And even if you are going to see the kind of Lou Williams or DeAndre Jordan performance they display on a nightly basis, that’s still pretty damn special.