Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
When: 6:00 p.m. PST
How to watch/listen: FOX Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Projected Starting Lineups:
LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac
Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Jarrett Allen
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (sore left knee) — OUT
Nets: Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) — OUT, Shabazz Napier (hamstring) — DAY-TO-DAY, DeMarre Carroll (knee) — DAY-TO-DAY
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have been playing some of their best basketball of the season in the last two weeks, provided you exclude the loss Tuesday to Portland, which seems fair since Danilo Gallinari wasn’t playing. The offense has found a nice rhythm with Gallinari leading the way in the first unit, aided by a healthy dose of pick-and-rolls involving Ivica Zubac and any one of the three backcourt starters. Then, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell come in and continue to apply the pressure, often overwhelming bench units hoping for a respite from LA’s firepower.
The defense is arguably more impressive, as Patrick Beverley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander form a stout perimeter tandem that is backed up by Zubac, a big body and rim protector. The second unit also features some strong individual defenders, particularly the former Memphis Grizzlies tandem of JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple. All in all, the Clippers have found a way to maximize the sum of their parts in this recent stretch of play, allowing each player to fill a role that optimizes his strengths and benefits the team in the process. As a result, LA has won 6 of its last 7 games and is almost assured of making the playoffs in the Western Conference.
While the Clippers can feel comfortable about their spot in the postseason, the Brooklyn Nets are a little less secure. FiveThirtyEight still gives them an 86 percent chance of finishing in the top 8, but the Nets have the toughest remaining schedule in the league, and they are feeling it. Brooklyn is in the middle of a six-game west coast road trip, having already lost the first two games to Oklahoma City and Utah. The Nets come to Los Angeles on the second end of a back-to-back and are further disadvantaged by the relatively early start time of tonight’s game.
The last time Brooklyn and LA played one another was back in November when the Clippers roster looked very different and the Nets were on their way to losing nine of their next ten games. Now, Brooklyn is significantly more competent, led by their two-headed point guard monster of D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie (arguably the greatest player tweeter in the NBA). Unlike the Bulls, the Nets still have plenty to play for, and even though this could easily be chalked up as a schedule loss, expect Brooklyn to fight for all four quarters.
What to watch for:
- Joe Harris is one the best shooters in the league — he shoots 46.2 percent from beyond the arc — and proved his ability to hit big shots by winning the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend. Doc Rivers said Harris reminded him of Landry Shamet because both of them are capable of coming off of screens and getting shots up quickly. The two may be matched up against one another in the starting lineup, so Shamet’s ability to get through screens on defense will be tested.
- Dinwiddie, despite missing 14 games in the last two months, is one of the Lou Williams’ primary competitors for the Sixth Man of the Year award. He definitely presents a tougher matchup than usual in the second unit because Dinwiddie is a little bit bigger than most backup point guards and can easily get his shot off.
- Beverley said he has been starting to groom SGA’s body for the playoffs, and the rookie will get a stern test against Russell, Brooklyn’s All-Star. Like Gilgeous-Alexander, Russell likes to operate in the midrange and uses his length to create openings for his jumper. He also plays at a very comfortable pace and has deceptively good passing vision. If SGA can neutralize that matchup, the Clippers will be in very good position.
Check out Nets Daily for the opposing perspective, and enjoy the game!