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Clippers vs. Nets Preview: A Tough Game, But One the Clips Should Win

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The Clippers take on the tough, gritty Nets in a Saturday matinee.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

When: 3:00 PM Pacific Time

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

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Pat Beverley – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Tobias Harris – Danilo Gallinari – Marcin Gortat

Nets: D’Angelo Russell – Allen Crabbe – Joe Harris – Jared Dudley – Jarrett Allen

Injuries:

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Out (Sore knee), Avery Bradley Questionable (Ankle sprain)

Nets: Caris LeVert Out (Dislocated foot), Traveon Graham Out (Strained hamstring), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Questionable (Ankle sprain)

The Big Picture:

It’s kind of hard to believe, but the Clippers have been one of the best teams in the NBA so far this season. Their 9-5 record is tied for sixth-best in the association, and they’re a top 10 team in both offensive and defensive rating. Not only that, but the Clippers seem to be improving as the season goes along. They’re currently riding a three-game win streak, all against tough teams, and all coming down to crunch time. On one hand, the Clippers’ offense when the going gets tough continues to be largely ineffective, reliant on the efforts of one Lou Williams. On the other, they keep winning games. The Clippers have to improve in keeping their offense zipping all game, but they are looking like a very good team on the whole.

The Antagonist:

The Nets got off to a great start to their season, powered by a breakout season by third-year wing Caris LeVert. Unfortunately, LeVert came down awkwardly on his leg earlier this week and was ruled out for most of the season with a dislocated foot. Considering how the injury looked in real time, that was actually a positive outcome for LeVert, as it looked like he might have broken his leg. Even without LeVert, however, the Nets are not an easy out. Coach Kenny Atkinson is one of the best in the NBA, and much like Doc Rivers, gets his guys to play hard every night. They’re a particularly smart defensive team, forcing opponents into the worst shots in basketball (long twos) on a frequent basis. The Nets are long, athletic, well-coached, and have some talent. Without LeVert they don’t have much firepower, but they are a tough opponent.

Notes:

  • Boban time: While Jarrett Allen is a talented young big man (one of my personal favorites), he’s more of a traditional rim-running center. Backup center Ed Davis is in a similar mold. Since they lack a stretch big man, this could mean Boban Marjanovic gets some rotation minutes for the first time in a few games. He can successfully punish the Nets’ bigs inside without getting drawn away from the basket on the other end. Even better, while the Nets do have some sweet shooters, none of them hit off-the-dribble threes or run endless pick and rolls to expose Boban like a Kyle Lowry or Damian Lillard can. It really does seem to be like a good game to bring out Boban.
  • Shai bounce-back: Shai wasn’t bad against the Spurs, per se. His defense was generally solid, and he had some huge shots in the 2nd half. But he also didn’t have any assists and wasn’t getting to the basket like we’ve seen in previous games. It was just a quiet, foul-prone outing from him, with the good news being that even on a bad night he still had plenty of positives. It was also nice to see that Doc Rivers trusted him down the stretch despite his not having a great game. Shai needs these late-game reps, maybe even more on nights where he needs to do other things besides score or even make plays for others. Shai has simply been too good to leave off the floor for long. Look for him to have a stronger game against the Nets – he’s always learning and growing, and it would seem likely that he gets off to an aggressive start.
  • Pat Beverley heating up: After being positively miserable on the offensive end of the court to start the season, Pat Beverley has turned things around of late. Over his past five games, Bev is shooting 46.3% from the field and 40.9% from three, which are both very solid numbers. If anything, those are probably a bit too high for Bev, but he was bound to positively regress to the mean after his frigid start. The whole way, Beverley has continued to contribute in other areas, adding a handful of assists and rebounds a game, and keeping turnovers low. His defense has ben mostly fine, if not quite up to his old standards, but that might improve as he knocks off rust and works his way back from the microfracture surgery. The Beverley of the past five games is the one that the Clippers value so highly, and he’s a very nice player indeed.
  • Turnovers are key: If the Clippers can keep their turnovers low, they should be able to pull out the win. The Nets don’t have a ton of offensive talent, particularly in the halfcourt, but are deadly when allowed to run. For the Clippers, that means no live-ball turnovers (which have plagued them at times) and hustling back in transition after missed shots. As long as they keep the Nets’ fastbreak points low and limit their turnovers, their superior talent should be able to pull out the win.