Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 PM Pacific Time
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Clippers: Pat Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat
Nuggets: Isaiah Thomas Out (Hip), Michael Porter Jr. Out (Back), Jarred Vanderbilt Out (Foot)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers are coming into the 2018-2019 season with a lot of confidence and a large ship on their collective shoulders. Despite the depth on their roster and the presence of some very talented veteran players, the Clippers are generally predicted to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. However, the Clippers are healthy going into the season, and should have the whole roster available for the season opener, something that almost never occurred last year. As long as they stay healthy (a legitimate worry with some of the injury-prone players on the roster), the Clippers should be a very tough out on a night to night basis.
The Denver Nuggets have slowly climbed the Western Conference standings over the past few years, missing the playoffs by just one game last season with a 46-36 record. Their roster is largely the same as last season, with the most notable addition being backup point guard Isaiah Thomas, who is injured to start the year. However, they should see quite a bit of internal improvement: 9 of their 15 roster players are 23 years old or younger. Their starting lineup should be absolutely dynamite offensively, boasting well above-average offensive players across the board. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic is as promising a core as there is in the NBA, and they complement each other beautifully. The Nuggets’ weak spot is defense, but a healthier season from Paul Millsap could help a lot in that regard. Denver has been widely projected to make the playoffs, and if their main players stay healthy, I would agree with that prediction.
- What will Doc’s rotation look like: Doc’s starting lineup is set, and his bench rotation largely appears to be as well. Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Montrezl Harrell will all get minutes off the pine, and it would be surprising if Luc didn’t as well. That leaves one spot if Doc goes with a 10-man rotation, with the two likely candidates for that last rotation player being Ty Wallace and Mike Scott. Right now, I’d lean with Scott getting it: his shooting fits better with the second unit, and he’s a more established veteran. However, even if the players in the rotation are more or less known, we still don’t know how many minutes Doc will divvy out to each of them. Does anyone crack 35 minutes per game? How much time does Harrell get at center instead of Gortat? Will Shai get over 15 minutes on the court, and will Doc be patient with his rookie mistakes? These are all questions that one game won’t answer, but there should at least be some clues now that the games matter.
- How will the Clippers defend the Nuggets: As mentioned above, the Nuggets are an explosive offensive team. Pat Beverley and Avery Bradley are well-equipped to guard Murray and Harris, but Gortat seems like an iffy matchup on Jokic or Millsap. It will be interesting to see how the Clippers defend the pick and roll, especially with Gortat on the court. He’s too slow to switch against the Nuggets’ perimeter players, but hedging could also be dangerous, as Jokic and Millsap can both make plays in the short court and hit open threes. This could therefore be an early opportunity to see lineups with Gallinari at center, which Doc has teased for weeks now. He should be able to compete with Jokic in the post, and stretching the Nuggets out on the other end will make the Clippers’ lives easier as well. Honestly, neither team looks like a defensive juggernaut this season, so this will probably be a very high-scoring, fun contest.
- Revenge: The Clippers directly competed with the Nuggets for a playoff spot in the West last year, and while both teams ultimately fell short, the nail in the Clippers’ coffin was hammered in by the Nuggets in game 80, when they destroyed the Clippers 134-115 at Staples Center. The Clippers probably wouldn’t have made the postseason anyway, but that loss truly doomed them, and you know that guys like Pat Beverley, Tobias Harris, and Lou Williams haven’t forgotten. It’s opening night, it’s a home game, and the Clippers will be coming extra hard for the Nuggets.
- Other content: We’ve had a ton of great content here on Clips Nation over the past couple days in preparation for the season. Check out our staff’s season predictions, Sabreena’s look at the Clippers’ offense, Chris’ four questions for opening night, Taylor’s dive into whether Boban should get more minutes, and the newest episode of The Lob The Jam The Pod.
For a perspective on the Nuggets, check out our wonderful sister site Denver Stiffs.
As always, there will be a game thread up half an hour before start time, and a recap will follow shortly after the game is over. Clippers’ basketball is back!