Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
When: 5:30 PM PT
How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Avery Bradley – Tobias Harris – Danilo Gallinari – Marcin Gortat
Warriors: Steph Curry – Klay Thompson – Kevin Durant – Draymond Green – Kevon Looney
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute Out (knee), Jerome Robinson Out (ankle)
Warriors: Damian Jones Out (pectoral), DeMarcus Cousins Out (achilles)
The Big Picture:
After a rough stretch, the Clippers have won their last two games, both against Western Conference playoff contenders. The return of Lou Williams has meant everything, as Sweet Lou has brought back the balanced scoring and dangerous offense that was the Clippers’ hallmark during their high point in late November. Lou’s creation and shooting has lifted some of the load off Gallinari and Harris, and his pick and roll abilities have unlocked Montrezl Harrell once more. The Clippers’ defense could still use some work, and they continue to have a problem with turnovers, but the dark days of the past couple weeks appear to be receding.
The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA, when healthy. As long as they have their four All Stars on the court, they’re incredibly tough to beat on any given night. Their record is not nearly as pristine as their reputation this season, but many of those losses came when Steph Curry was out with an injury. The Dubs are also behind only the Sixers for the best home record in the NBA, as they’re 14-3 when playing at Oracle. The Warriors depth is shaky, as it has been since they signed Kevin Durant, but Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala continue to give them solid minutes, and Jonas Jarebko has been a steal for them off the bench. Still, the hard part with beating the Warriors remains dealing with the shooting of Curry, Klay, and Durant.
- Shai plays vs Steph for the first time: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, being a 20 year old point guard, has had his basketball formative years during Steph Curry’s reign as the best point guard on the planet. Shai has already mentioned that he’s enjoyed playing against some of the players he looked up to growing up this season (Westbrook and Dame, certainly), and facing off against Steph should be no different. Now, Avery Bradley and Pat Beverley will probably get the lion’s share of the duties on Steph, but Shai will assuredly guard him a few times, and Steph will probably be checking him on defense. Should be a fun game for the rookie, as well as a difficult one: he’s going to be guarding Klay, presumably, and that’s certainly no picnic. Hopefully Shai stands out tomorrow in a tough contest.
- Going small: With both DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Jones sidelined, the Warriors have a center rotation of Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, and Jordan Bell. All of those guys are undersized compared to traditional centers, enabling the Clippers to go small to match them without fear of getting destroyed on the glass. This won’t be a night for Boban or Marcin Gortat, as neither of them is quick enough to do much against Curry in the pick and roll. Look for a lot of Montrezl Harrell, sprinkled in with stretches of Gallinari playing center. The latter lineup might end up being the Clippers’ best bet if the Warriors go super small with Draymond, and the contest turns into a shootout.
- The Rooster is crowing: Danilo Gallinari is quietly putting together the best season of a very good and underappreciated career. Gallo is averaging 19.5 points and 6 rebounds per game, and is shooting an incredible 45.3% from three on 5.3 attempts per game. His outside shooting together with his ability to get to the line has powered him to a ridiculous 62.6% TS. Meanwhile, he rarely turns the ball over, is a model of consistency on a night to night basis, and is a good defender to boot. He’s been even better than his season averages in December, scoring more per game while raising his efficiency. Really, while Tobias Harris and Montrezl Harrell have received much of the shine this season, Gallo’s health and strong play might be the biggest reason for the Clippers’ success.
- Pat coming around: After a very slow start to the season offensively, Pat Beverley has picked up the slack as of late. He’s shooting exactly 40% from three in the month of December on over three attempts per game, and he’s getting to the free throw line much more quickly as well. Some of the burst seems to have returned to his drives to the basket, and perhaps that same strength is getting his shot going from deep. His ability to contribute offensively is a big deal for a Clippers’ bench that struggled without Lou Williams, and with Lou back, the Clippers’ 2nd unit should be more dangerous than ever.
- Tired Clips: This game is the second night of a back to back, is the Clippers’ third game in four nights, and is also on the road. That’s a schedule loss if I’ve ever seen one, though that’s mitigated by the distance from LA to Oakland being short, by the game yesterday being early, and by the Warriors also playing on a back to back. Still, this will be a tough game for many, many reasons.
The Warriors’ perspective can be found at Golden State of Mind. Check back in later for the game thread!