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Clippers vs. 76ers Preview: LA rings in the new year with a big test

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Joel Embiid and the Sixers look to use their advantage inside to sweep the season series from the Clippers.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: 7:30 PST

How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Boban Marjanovic

Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Jimmy Butler, Wilson Chandler, Joel Embiid

Injuries:

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (sore left knee) - OUT

76ers: Joel Embiid (left knee soreness) - PROBABLE, Markelle Fultz (shoulder) - OUT, Zhaire Smith (foot/illness) - OUT, Justin Patton (foot) - OUT

The Big Picture:

The Clippers sit in fourth place in the Western Conference after a 6-9 record in December brought them back down to Earth after being the darlings of the league to start the season. However, the travel-heavy schedule that dragged the team down is mostly complete, as LA is playing its fourth straight game at Staples Center. The team has looked noticeably more energetic in the last week as it benefits from more practice time and days off. The Clippers are currently 2-1 on this pseudo home stand (since one of the games was on the Lakers’ home floor), and are looking for revenge in game four against Philadelphia, who handed them the first back-to-back loss this season in November.

The Antagonist:

The 76ers boast some of the best star power in the league with a trio of Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons. (Embiid missed the team’s last game against Portland with what appears to be precautionary rest, but should play tonight). For the season, Philadelphia boasts a differential (points scored per 100 possessions minus points allowed) of plus-2.2, which amounts to a 46.6-win team, per Cleaning the Glass. That jumps to plus-4.2, or 51.6 wins, since acquiring Butler. The last time the Clippers played the Sixers was before they had their All-Star wing, but Embiid dominated LA to the tune of 41 points on 16-of-32 shooting. It got so bad that the Clippers were forced to unleash Boban Marjanovic in the second half, which is why I’d guess they’ll start Boban again tonight. Butler has played LA once this season, in Los Angeles on Nov. 5, when the Timberwolves lost 120-109. He did most of his damage against the Clippers second unit, which was trending small at that point in the season, but still only managed 20 points.

What to watch for:

  • Containing Embiid has to be the team’s primary focus, which means this may be the rare game Boban and Marcin Gortat see extended minutes. Montrezl Harrell’s size limitations mean that he can’t really provide any meaningful resistance against Embiid when he is shooting around the rim or if he chooses to face up and shoot jumpers. The Clippers don’t really like to double big men, but LaMarcus Aldridge proved so formidable in the last game that a reassessment might be in order.
  • Ben Simmons is a unique defensive challenge on the perimeter. Assuming Gallinari slots on Chandler (or Mike Muscala, if the Sixers start a little bigger), that would leave Tobias Harris on Butler, and SGA and Avery Bradley to cover Simmons and J.J. Redick. Bradley is noticeably better on ball than off, but is far too small to guard Simmons, while SGA struggles getting around screens, which would make Redick a tough cover. The Clippers might need more minutes from Ty Wallace and Sindarius Thornwell to navigate the perimeter threats the Sixers possess. Neither of them played outside of garbage time in the first matchups against Philadelphia or Minnesota, but they could find some utility today.
  • The Clippers are winless against the Sixers since J.J. Redick joined the team in the 2017 offseason after four years in Los Angeles. LA just got its first win over DeAndre Jordan last week — might a victory over Redick be next?

Check out the opposing perspective at Liberty Ballers, and enjoy the game!