Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
When: 4:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Hawks: Trae Young, Kent Bazemore, Kevin Huerter, John Collins, Alex Len
Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat
Spurs: Taurean Prince (Achilles) - DOUBTFUL, Alex Poythress (Ankle) - DOUBTFUL
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) and Avery Bradley (ankle) are both OUT
The Big Picture
The L.A. Clippers just keep proving everyone wrong by winning games against solid teams. Now 10-5, the Clips are on a four game win streak, all against teams with the playoffs directly in their sight. Now, the Clips get an opportunity to go take on a team, in the Atlanta Hawks, who should probably try their best to not win games but play with a feverish pace that could surprise a Clips team that has been involved in absolute battles the last four games. However, the Clippers are a better team and don’t look like a squad that will have a let-down. In the NBA it’s hard to judge this on any given night, but Doc Rivers has this group running an efficient, tough brand of basketball that is infectious. The Clippers are also sprinkled with depth all-around and have been getting contributions from everyone, so (hopefully) fatigue shouldn’t be a huge factor going into Monday’s game.
Currently, the Clips have three All-Star level talents playing some of the best basketball of their respective careers. Tobias Harris is looking every bit the max-contract player he aspires to be this offseason, averaging 20.7 Points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on 51.3 percent shooting. This play should come as no surprise to anyone who watched the Clippers late last season as Harris’ high efficiency and all-around game just gets better and better with each contest. After Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams are both averaging 19+ points a game on above 40 percent shooting. Lou has been killing it down the stretch as of late and Gallo always starts hot, typically leading the Clippers in first quarter points for a team that’s fifth in that category this season (29.1 PP).
The Clippers still have the best bench in the league, averaging 55 points a game, led by Lou and the ever energetic Montrezl Harrell. The chemistry between these two is palpable and leads to some nice runs and show stopping dunks by Trez. Mike Scott has been impressive with some solid shooting and defense, as has Ty Wallace, who has gotten some more time recently, and is taking advantage of it. The bench will probably get a good amount of time tonight if the Clippers do what they are supposed to.
The Atlanta Hawks are currently on a seven game losing streak and have the second worst record in the league at 3-13. This was all a part of the master plan after letting go of every single player that dotted their impressive roster (sans Kent Bazemore) through the mid-2010’s, and also letting coach Mike Budenholzer go after the 2017-18 season. Their modus operandi is run, run and run some more — and jack up three’s. The Hawks rank sixth in percentage of points as three, are fifth in fast break points per game, and rank first in pace. While this surely is an attempt at adapting to a new NBA, the Hawks are a super young (Average age of 25.88 -- with the oldest player in the league in Vince Carter) and thus: scrambled, inefficient and losing. However, these losing ways are probably for the best as they acquire early draft picks and attempt to lure free-agents down South with oodles of cap space.
The Hawks are led in scoring by rookie point guard Trae Young at 16.3 points per game. He is an exciting player that can drop 30 points in any game and has great vision. He will be a good player someday, and let’s hope this promise doesn’t show Monday night. Outside of Young, the Hawks have some other young talent in Taurean Prince (15.8 PPG), Kent Bazemore (14.7 PPG), the newly-healthy John Collins (12 PPG) and Alex Len (10 PPG, 5.5 RPG). While this roster doesn’t have a lot of huge names on it (Jeremy Lin and Carter are big but for different reasons), they will try to run you out of the gym so don’t sleep.
Trez for Most Improved?: I know it’s early, but Montrezl Harrell is quickly becoming a fan-favorite in L.A. and is making a strong case for the Most Improved Player of the Year. He is averaging 14.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game on a hyper-efficient 68 percent. He is showing no signs of slowing down, either: over the last five games, he is averaging 19.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Stephen A Smith called Trez “the next Dennis Rodman” after the Warriors game and he might not be too off on that one. Straight energy, combined with a knack for making tough shots inside, has propelled Trez into being one of the most efficient players in the league today. He is putting the world on notice.
Fourth quarter kings: The Clippers currently lead the league in fourth quarter scoring, averaging 29.3 points a game in the final frame. This is partially due to the late game prowess of Lou who leads the league, again, in the fourth quarter scoring individually. According to the nba.com stats, the Clips are second in the league in “clutch wins”, fourth in three-point percentage in the clutch, and fourth in clutch win percentage. With the amount of depth and experience dotting this Clippers roster, this clutch ability makes sense. With four straight games coming down to the final minutes this past week, the Clips have proved they have the mettle to succeed late and this factor will be huge moving forward.