Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
When: 7:30 PM Pacific Time
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups:
Nuggets: Jamal Murray – Gary Harris – Will Barton – Paul Millsap – Nikola Jokic
Clippers: Terance Mann – Landry Shamet – Kawhi Leonard – JaMychal Green – Ivica Zubac
Nuggets: Bol Bol Out (Foot), Nikola Jokic Questionable (Rest)
Clippers: Paul George Out (Shoulder surgery), Kawhi Leonard Active (Rest), Rodney McGruder Out (Ankle Sprain), Pat Beverley Out (Rest)
The Big Picture:
This game against the Nuggets marks the halfway point of preseason. So far, the Clippers have only had one extremely sloppy opener against the Rockets and a snooze against a far inferior opponent in the Shanghai Sharks. Therefore, even for preseason, it’s been tough to take too much away. Really, everyone has stayed healthy so far and the team looks mostly in shape, and those are the two most important takeaways regardless. It’s also difficult to evaluate the Clippers when their two best players haven’t appeared thus far, and that won’t change tonight.
The Nuggets are coming off a highly successful season and are doubling down on their core. Therefore, there’s not too many new pieces on their roster; Jerami Grant will play a key role off their bench, and Michael Porter Jr. intrigues as a potential wild card, but the rest of their rotation looks the same as it has for the past couple seasons. That’s not a bad thing – if anything, in the wildly changed Western Conference, continuity could help the Nugs a great deal. The Nuggets have only played one preseason game, a contest against the Blazers in which superstar center Nikola Jokic rested, so they haven’t played their full hand either. It will be interesting to see if Jokic plays in this one or not.
Kawhi Leonard out again: The Clippers franchise player did not suit up for the first two preseason games, and has already been ruled out of this one as well for res. Kawhi is apparently itching to play, but the coaching staff is taking it easy with their centerpiece player, so his not playing in this contest is not a shock. Hopefully the fans at Staples Center get their money’s worth and see Kawhi in action in the next preseason game Sunday against the Melbourne United, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Doc Rivers has said he’ll play in at least one preseason game, and now there are only two options left. Unfortunately, Kawhi’s debut as a Clipper will have to wait another day.
Editor’s Note: Disregard this! Doc Rivers said shortly before the game that Kawhi Leonard would play “a bit” in the first half. Get ready to see Kawhi in a Clippers uniform for the first time!
Landry Shamet’s shooting: Landry Shamet, the Clippers prized sharpshooter, is only 2-15 from the field in preseason thus far, and 1-12 from deep. Should Clippers fans be concerned? No, no they should not. It’s only been two games, and shooting is notoriously random on a game to game basis. There was an 88-game sample size last season of Shamet being an excellent NBA shooter in games that actually mattered, and that sample size should not be disregarded or even questioned because of two season games. If this slump lasts a couple months into the season? Well, even if Shamet’s longterm prospects would still be largely unchanged, that could at least be a sign of worry for this season. But we are a long, long way from that right now. Shamet’s shooting will be fine.
Rotations tightening: As the regular season (mercifully) draws closer, it makes more sense to treat preseason matches as true test runs rather than glorified scrimmages. Therefore, it’s possible that Doc Rivers begins to treat his rotations at least somewhat similar to how they might be in the regular season. Whether that means excising roster camp and two-way players such as Derrick Walton and Amir Coffey from the rotation, or giving more time to Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, it’s possible that we see a more regular season type look from the Clippers in the next couple of games. Then again, it’s possible that the Clippers stick to the light minute load on their veterans to keep them as healthy and rested as possible, and forego the extra reps.
Check back in for the game thread tonight, get ready for what should hopefully be an entertaining battle, and prepare for Kawhi’s first appearance in a Clippers game (hopefully the first of many).