Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: NBA TV, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
Hawks: Trae Young – DeAndre Bembry – Kevin Huerter – John Collins – Dewayne Dedmon
Clippers: Pat Beverley – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Avery Bradley – Tobias Harris – Marcin Gortat
Hawks: Kent Bazemore Out (ankle), Miles Plumlee Out (knee)
Clippers: Danilo Gallinari Out (knee), Luc Mbah a Moute Out (knee)
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have now won three games in a row, and four of their last five, given them an increased cushion for the 8th spot in the Western Conference standings. Their bench remains the most dominant in the NBA, averaging nearly 52 points per game, and starring two potential 6th Man of the Year winners in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Fortunately, the starting lineup has started performing better lately, largely thanks to the insertion of Pat Beverley, who has brought energy to what had been a lifeless unit. Avery Bradley, too, has played better recently, tightening up his defense and hitting more of his outside shots. With Tobias Harris still cruising to 20 and 8 a night, and a more aggressive Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Clippers have become the well-rounded team they were in the early going of the season once again. But will it last?
The Hawks are not as bad as you think. Sure, they’re 15-33, and are nowhere near the playoffs even in the lesser Eastern Conference. But they’re 9-10 over their last 19 games, and boast a legitimately frightening young big man in John Collins, who is averaging 20.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game on 62.2% shooting from the floor in the month of January. Trae Young’s outside shot still hasn’t come around, but he’s a very good playmaker, and has shown surprising capability at scoring around the basket. Add in the deadly-shooting Kevin Huerter, solid wing play from DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince, and a quality bench point guard in Jeremy Lin, and you have a feisty, competitive squad that has given good teams fits for months. The Hawks are not great, and they might be trading off their veterans over the next couple weeks, but they are not to be taken lightly.
- Containing Collins: The Clippers have had a tough time with containing top-tier big men all year. And while John Collins doesn’t have the sheer strength of Joel Embiid, the versatility of Karl-Anthony Towns, or the passing of Jokic, he’s incredibly bouncy and aggressive around the basket. The Clippers best bet on him might be Montrezl Harrell, but Collins has a couple inches on Trez, and is one of the few guys in the NBA who can match his athleticism and energy. Collins will probably have a pretty big game, but the Clippers need to do their best to keep him off the offensive glass and attack him on defense, where he’s very bad. If they can get him in foul trouble early, they’ll be in good position to win the game.
- Rolling with Robinson: After spending the first few months of the season sitting on the bench or playing in the G-League, rookie Jerome Robinson has finally cracked the Clippers’ rotation the past couple weeks with the injury to Gallinari. The rook has performed well, hitting outside shots, moving the ball, and playing decent man-to-man defense. He needs to work at making an impact when not shooting, and at his off-ball defense, but the Clippers have to be very happy with the minutes he’s given them so far. The only issue is that his minutes have come at the expense of Ty Wallace, who’s had a strongly positive impact on the Clippers this season with his versatile defense and ability to push the pace in transition. Honestly, it would be great to see Ty and Jerome together, as Jerome could provide spacing for Ty’s drives, and Ty’s excellent defense could make up for Jerome’s weaknesses in that area.
- Return of the Mike (Scott): After getting DNP-CDs in three of the past four games, Mike Scott returned to the rotation against the Kings, and played quite well. Even though his shot has been frigid since December, Scott’s spacing and overall competency has been helpful throughout the season, and he probably deserves to play every game, especially with Gallo out. He should especially get minutes against the Hawks, his old team, as his best game of the season was in November against Atlanta. He torched the Hawks for 18 points, hitting six threes, with several of those in the 4th quarter. Hopefully he has another “revenge game” tonight.
Check out Peachtree Hoops for the Hawks’ perspective, and check back in later for the game thread!