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Game Preview: Clippers Face Feisty Nets in Los Angeles

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The Clippers will need all of their energy and attitude to beat a young, competitive Nets team that has no reason to lose games.

NBA: New York Knicks at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 6:00 PM Pacific Time

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

Projected Starting Lineups:

Nets: Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Jarrett Allen

Clippers: Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers, Tobias Harris, Wes Johnson, DeAndre Jordan

Injuries:

Nets: Jeremy Lin Out (Knee Surgery), Jahlil Okafor Questionable (Illness)

Clippers: Pat Beverley Out (Knee Surgery), Jawun Evans Out (Sports Hernia), Avery Bradley Out (Sports Hernia), Danilo Gallinari Out (Fractured Hand)

The Antagonist:

The Nets are fun. They are bad (8th worst record in the NBA), but you wouldn’t often know if it you watched them on a semi-nightly basis. They play basketball mostly competently due to the good work of head coach Kenny Atkinson, and consistently compete against every opponent. Brooklyn loves to get out and run with their young athletes, and when they get going on offense they can be surprisingly hard to stop. Their issues, as with most young teams, lie on defense, where they struggle mightily in slowing opposing teams down. Nonetheless, they are dangerous, as they hang around in a good chunk of the games they play due to sheer hard effort and hustle. They have found a couple diamonds in the rough with journeyman point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and rookie Jarrett Allen, who both look like they could be starters in the NBA for years to come. Their play is bolstered by the steady veteran presence of DeMarre Carroll, who has had a resurgent year as a small-ball power forward, and who will assuredly spend time guarding Tobias Harris. Off the bench, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are both dangerous, and can quickly swing the tide of a game. Overall, the Nets are doing what bad teams should do—playing prospects, creating a culture, and finding out who might be pieces of their franchise’s future.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers sit in 9th place, just as they have for much of the past month. Despite strong play recently, their playoff hopes have taken hits with bad injury news and the refusal of the teams ahead of them to lose many games. The Nuggets are scratching together wins and got Paul Millsap back, while Anthony Davis has put the Pelicans on his back to drag them to seven victories in a row. In fact, the two teams most likely to slip might be the two which were considered the surest locks for the playoffs a month or two ago: the Timberwolves and Spurs. Neither of those teams is playing good basketball right now, and they each have really difficult schedules the remainder of the season. If the Clippers can just play around .500 ball the rest of the way, one of those teams might slip enough for the Clips to make the playoffs.

Notes:

· Williams and Wallace Gone: Both CJ Williams and Tyrone Wallace will be with the Agua Caliente Clippers today, as they have used up all the days allotted them to be in the NBA on their two-way deals. Reports came out yesterday that Wallace’s camp rejected the Clippers’ extension offer (for good reason), and the two sides apparently remain at an impasse. However, the Clippers can just convert one of their contracts to an NBA minimum for the remainder of the season, and still have rights to match them this summer in free agency. Right now it appears that Wallace is the preferred target (again, for good reason), if an extension can’t get done soon, I’d guess the Clippers just convert his contract now, and worry about his future on the Clippers later. The Clips will be thin without their G-League guys, and this means players like Wes Johnson, Sam Dekker, and Sindarius Thornwell will get more minutes tomorrow. Hopefully they don’t disappoint.

· Who Starts at Small Forward/Power Forward: Four of the Clippers’ starters seem assured: Milos, Austin, Tobias, and DJ. However, that fifth spot, which has been held by both Williams and Wallace since Gallinari went down, is now available. The other player who has started for Gallo much of the year is Wes Johnson, but he has not played well recently, even aside from his embarrassment at the hands of James Harden a few nights ago. An outside possibility is that Sindarius Thornwell starts at small forward, pushing Harris to power forward. His defense and energy have impressed the past couple games, and his aggressiveness on defense can help make up for the sputtering play of Milos on that end. Either way, the Clippers just need that fifth starter to do the little things and help get some stops, leaving the offense to the other players.

· Lou Williams’ Excellence: It feels like the discussion around the season Lou’s been having has quieted in recent weeks. Some of that is due to the All Star Game being over, along with the campaign to get him in the game. Some of it is because Lou’s not quite as hot as he was in January, when he was averaging 30 points a game on terrific efficiency. And the rest is probably because the playoff race has entered everyone’s minds, and the only real player discussions right now are endless arguments about MVP and ROY. All that is unfair to Lou, who is still averaging 23.2 points per game, and doing so with a True Shooting% of 59.1 (which is incredibly good). Sweet Lou is also averaging by far a career high in assists at 5.4 per game, developing a fantastic connection with both DeAndre Jordan and Montrezl Harrell in the pick and roll. He continues to score 20 points off the bench on a nightly basis while not dominating the ball, and is the Clippers’ best source of points when push comes to shove. Lou has a strong chance of being the first unanimous 6th Man of the Year award winner, and he fully deserves it.

Here are some highlights of Lou from the Nuggets’ game to enjoy.