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Game Preview: Clippers Visit Warriors in First Game After All Star Break

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The Clippers should be refreshed and rejuvenated after their long break, and will need that extra juice against the best team in the NBA.

NBA: All Star Saturday Night Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California

When: 7:30 PM Pacific Time

How to Watch: TNT, AM 570 Radio

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Austin Rivers, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, DeAndre Jordan

Warriors: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia

Injuries:

Clippers: Jawun Evans Out (Abdominal Strain), Patrick Beverley Out (Knee Surgery), Avery Bradley Questionable (Groin Strain)

Warriors: Jordan Bell Out (Ankle), Patrick McCaw Out (Wrist Fracture)

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are a half game out of 8th place in the Western Conference playoff race, and just a game and a half back of 5th. However, despite their strong play recently, they’ve been unable to gain much ground in their chase for a playoff spot, mostly because their competitors are playing nearly as good as they are. And with the Jazz surging up behind them, the Clippers need to win their games just to keep their heads above water. 44 wins seems like a low estimate for what the 8th seed might attain this year, and that would require the Clippers to go 14-12 the rest of the way. Their winning percentage since January is far above that, but their schedule toughens up the rest of the way, and they have several extended stretches where going .500 would be quite impressive. Therefore, as always, they need to make sure they take care of the easy games, and stay in enough of the more competitive contests that they are able to steal a few they perhaps shouldn’t win. Their only real current injury issue is Avery Bradley, whose groin appears to not be getting healthier, and who probably needs weeks of rest that the Clippers can ill afford to give him.

The Antagonist:

The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA, and the presumptive favorites to win their third NBA championship in the past four years. They have, however, not been nearly as sharp this year as seasons prior. That means they are merely a great team rather than one of the best in NBA history (as they were the past two years) and are still an incredibly formidable opponent on a night-in, night-out basis. One of the explanations behind their falloff is lack of effort from their veteran players, who are likely conserving their energy for the playoffs. Another is that their bench is perhaps the worst of the modern Warriors’ dynasty—young guys like Pat McCaw, Kevon Looney, and Damian Jones haven’t improved as much as the Dubs might have hoped, while older players such as Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala appear to have lost a step or two. On a game to game basis this won’t matter much, and their top talent is so good it might not make a difference in the playoffs either. Such is life when you have two top five players, and two more who are top 20.

Notes:

Rivalry Over: With Blake Griffin gone, there is now just one player (DeAndre Jordan) left on the Clippers who fought in that vicious first round series against the Warriors in 2014. Austin Rivers and Wes Johnson were there for the tail end of the rivalry with the Warriors from 2015-2016 as well, but neither possess quite the same history with the Warriors that the Clippers of yesteryear had. Combining that with the Clippers not being contenders anymore even in name, their rivalry against the Warriors is probably dead. That might actually be a good thing for the Clips—they were able to sneak a win against the Dubs earlier this year (their first win in several seasons), and hopefully the Warriors won’t play against the Clips with as much fire as they had in years past.

Tyrone Wallace in Ontario: The Clippers have not yet recalled Wallace from the G-League, which means he most likely sits this game out. It’s possible they transfer him up tomorrow (and are saving a day), but with just a few days left on his 45 in the NBA, they are probably going to use his remaining time as sparingly as possible. If Avery Bradley is a no-go against the Warriors, it is possible they bring Wallace back, as there would probably be some minutes available for him at shooting guard and small forward. If not, look for him to play in Agua Caliente’s games for the rest of the season.

DJ and Montrezl Time: The Warriors’ biggest weakness is their center rotation, which means that DeAndre Jordan and Montrezl Harrell will need to dominate their counterparts if the Clippers are to win. Zaza Pachulia, David West, and JaVale McGee should be no match for the Clippers’ big men, and the Clippers controlling the paint could allow them to limit the Warriors’ scoring total to a reasonable amount. Look for the Clippers to get their big men involved early and often on the offensive end.

Lou Williams’ Encore Performance: The last time the Clippers played the Warriors, Lou Williams turned in a performance for the ages, dropping 50 points and a world’s worth of swagger on the Warriors’ heads. He absolutely eviscerated them all over the court, and scored an incredible 27 points in the 3rd quarter alone. Lou will be coming off the bench in this one, and his minutes won’t be anywhere near what they were at the time of the last matchup (unless Bradley is out, in which case he’ll pick up extra time again), so a massive game is unlikely. But Lou has still be dropping 20 points regularly even with a healthier Clippers’ roster, and a big night for him against a weak Warriors bench is definitely in the cards.

Update: The Clippers have announced that Avery Bradley will miss tonight’s game with a sports hernia. He is going to see a specialist for further consultation, so he’s probably going to miss more than just this game. Tyrone Wallace has been recalled from Agua Caliente, and will start in his place.