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Clippers vs. Wizards Preview: LA Takes on Struggling Wiz at Staples

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The Clippers have started off strong this season, and now face a Wizards team that is talented, but already off on the wrong foot.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

When: 6:30 PM Pacific Time

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio

Projected Starting Lineups:

Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Ian Mahinmi

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

Injuries:

Wizards: Dwight Howard Doubtful (sore lower back), Markieff Morris Questionable (illness)

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Questionable (sore left knee)

The Big Picture:

With a 3-2 record, the Clippers are sitting right in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. They’ve balanced big wins (defeating Houston twice) with tough losses (to the Nuggets and Pelicans), giving off the vibe of a very competent, professional squad that will hang in against any team in the NBA. The Clippers’ bench has been a huge strength thus far, powered by the inside dominance of Montrezl Harrell, the shot-creation of Lou Williams, and the smooth operating of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. While the starters have struggled at times on the offensive end, the bench has had no such issues, and Doc Rivers’ biggest challenge thus far this season has been to balance the minutes on this deep roster. Still, it’s a good problem to have, and the Clippers overall have to be quite pleased with how the season has gone to this point.

The Antagonist:

The Wizards, on the other hand, look like the same old Wiz from years past – and that’s not a good thing. They’ve lost to an undermanned Heat team, the Raptors without Kawhi Leonard, and the (to be fair, somewhat frisky) Kings. Of course, as is the Wizards’ way, they were able to get a very tough, gritty win in Portland in overtime, but followed that up with a demolition at the hands of the Warriors. There’s just no consistency to the Wizards. Their effort waxes and wanes almost as if with the tides, and there have already been grumblings in the locker room about touches and unhappiness. They are also one of the worst rebounding teams in the last decade, a result of going small frequently with horrible rebounding “big men” in Jeff Green and Markieff Morris. The Wizards’ season so far can be summed thusly: they legitimately need 2018 Dwight Howard to fix their problems. Scott Brooks is on the hot seat, trade rumors are already swirling around Otto Porter, and the Wizards are a mess once more, despite possessing one of the more talented rosters in the Eastern Conference. Which means, of course, they’ll look great tonight.

Notes:

Revenge games for Marcin and Austin: While not one of the biggest moves made this summer, the Marcin Gortat – Austin Rivers trade looms large for this game. Gortat was a pillar for the Wizards as their starting center for five years, while Austin Rivers was a key bench player for the Clippers in the waning days of Lob City. Both players had their admirers and critics. Gortat was lauded for his consistency and screen-setting ability, but didn’t always get along with his teammates. Austin Rivers received praise for his fire, his heart, and scoring ability, yet struggled with consistency and scoring efficiency. Oddly enough, both Austin and Marcin have struggled out of the gate. Austin isn’t shooting the ball well at all (just 32% from three), while Gortat has struggled to score at all due to lack of opportunities and chemistry with his pick-and-roll partners. They will therefore have a lot of motivation tonight for a variety of reasons, and I’d expect strong showings from both players.

Blocking Beal: Bradley Beal loves playing the Clippers. His 22.3 point per game mark against them is his third-highest against any team, and he’s shot a ridiculous 45.3% on threes in his contests against the Clips. Fortunately, the Clippers have several different options to throw on Beal defensively in this game. Bradley, Beverley, and Shai should all get opportunities on both Beal and Wall, and hopefully one of them can slow down the Wizards’ shooting guard better than the Clippers’ defenders of yore.

Will Doc go small again: With Luc Mbah a Moute out last game, Doc Rivers went small off the bench with three guards, getting Milos Teodosic his first action of the season. Milos made Doc look good, dazzling on offense, and looking every bit as good as he did at his best last season. Luc is questionable again tonight, and it seems likely that Doc will roll the dice with Milos once more. If there’s any team to do it against, it’s the Wizards, who do like to go small, and who have a bench guard in Tomas Satoransky who’s not much of an offensive threat.

Trez time: After two rough games to open the season, Montrezl Harrell has been dominant in the last three. In those contests, Trez averaged 19.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, and shot over 70% from the field. He should absolutely feast against a Wizards’ frontline that is either too slow (Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith) or too weak (Jeff Green) to guard him. Expect Montrezl to get a ton of time and touches tonight, especially since his ability to play small on defense should also help against the Wizards’ quicker lineups.