Where: Smoothie King Center (still funny)
When: 5:00 PM PT
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley — Paul George — Maurice Harkless— Patrick Patterson — Ivica Zubac
Pelicans: Jrue Holiday — Kenrich Williams — JJ Redick — ???? — Derrick Favors
Clippers: OUT — Landry Shamet (ankle), Kawhi Leonard (load management?)
Pelicans: OUT — Zion Williamson (knee), Lonzo Ball (groin), Josh Hart (ankle/knee), Darius Miller (achilles); QUESTIONABLE — Jahlil Okafor (ankle); GAME TIME DECISION — Brandon Ingram (knee)
The Big Picture
Guess who’s back?
The team is nearly whole again, and while we’ll have to wait until at least Saturday to see the franchise’s two new stars sharing the floor, Paul George’s return should ensure that the Clippers can deploy at least one in back-to-back matchups when Kawhi, erm, manages his load.
Any questions about their fit with one another and the remaining team will await their answers, especially with Landry Shamet out until 2020, but we will be offered a picture of George’s fitness and form, no minor concerns following offseason shoulder surgeries and a long absence from game action. It would be unreasonable to expect a bravura performance, but it’ll be nice to finally see some of the goods.
Guess who isn’t back?
Every Pelicans game preview would’ve begun with Zion Williamson, but as has been widely covered, the robust rookie has yet to record a regular-season minute while recovering from knee surgery.
But he’s just the start of New Orleans’ injury issues. Seriously, their starting lineup is a shrug. On Monday night against Houston, they floored four players listed as shooting guards. One of them, Josh Hart, is out tonight. As is Lonzo Ball, and possibly also Brandon Ingram.
The Zion-less Pelicans were still interesting, with the three Lakers castoffs benefiting from the extra freedom and increased pace of Alvin Gentry’s offense. What hadn’t benefited was the team’s record. Their sleepery playoff push— but not really, not when so many claimed them as a sleeper — failed to get off the ground. Now, with the ever-growing list of injuries, they’re being buried.
They enter tonight scraping the bottom of the Western Conference standings, just a game above the hapless Warriors. With the West soaring quickly beyond them, even Zion’s return will be unlikely to spark them into contention this year. (That is, if they could get anybody else back on the court too.) This season can be left to settling the foundation for the future yet to come. Just as it should be.
- An Old Friend: JJ Redick enters tonight averaging a shade over 12 points with a tidy 45.5% mark from three. Despite the team’s injury issues, Coach Gentry has resisted running JJ into the hardwood. Redick’s current 24.9 minutes-per-game average would be his fewest since 2009-10. Also, sadly, with Shamet sidelined, we’ll all be deprived our Spider-man meme.
- Cold Shooting (and Tired Legs): Having played last night in Houston, the Clippers won’t even have the benefit of fresh springs to get their shooting back in form. Their early season struggle to convert open shots has been well documented, and those leaden limbs may be something to watch if this game remains close into the fourth quarter. The Raptors showed on Sunday how even the most competitive fervor can succumb to an empty fuel tank. Oh, also, the Pelicans RUN. They’re third in pace. With so many starters on the bench, it might be their sole advantage.