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Game Preview: Clippers Square Off with Knicks on the Road

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The LA Clippers face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a Sunday matinee, as they continue their aggressive postseason push.

NBA: New York Knicks at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information

Where: Madison Square Garden - New York, NY

When: 9:00 a.m. PST

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket

How to Listen: AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay, Damyean Dotson, Mario Hezonja, Kevin Knox, DeAndre Jordan

Injuries

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out

Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr. (Back) - Out, Allonzo Trier (Calf) - Out, Noah Vonleh (Ankle) - Out

The Big Picture

The LA Clippers, who have won 9 of their last 10 outings and are riding a 4-game win streak, are playing their best basketball of the season. And it couldn’t come at a better time. With the postseason looming on the horizon, the Western Conference standings continue to remain as tight as ever. The Clippers currently sit in 7th place, though they share the same win-loss record (43-30) as the 5th place Oklahoma City Thunder and the 6th place Utah Jazz. And only 4 games separate 3rd and 8th place in the West. By the end of the night, the Clippers could see themselves in 5th place and just a couple of games away from home court advantage.

Since they began implementing their trade deadline acquisitions - Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Garrett Temple (and later, Wilson Chandler) - into their rotation, back on February 9th, the Clippers have gone 13-4. During that span, that is the highest winning percentage in the entire NBA (.765%). They have also sported the league’s 5th-highest Offensive Rating and 8th-highest Net Rating during the same span. And the Clippers are doing it with a starting unit which features 3 players - Shamet, Zubac, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - who are 21 years-old or younger (and both Shamet and Gilgeous-Alexander are just rookies).

The Clippers are in the midst of a 4-game road trip, mostly against lottery-bound teams, but they cannot let their foot off the gas. The team’s prominent veterans will undoubtedly do their best to ensure the team remains fully engaged. Expect Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari to continue providing the reliable offensive bursts the team has come to expect, as Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell provide the two-way jolt they need to keep opponents on edge.

The Antagonist

The New York Knicks, just 14-59, were the NBA’s first team to be eliminated from playoff contention this season. Shortly before the trade deadline, they traded away Kristaps Porzingis, arguably the team’s best player and seemingly their franchise cornerstone of the future, until moments before word got about the blockbuster deal that would send him, along with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and two future 1st round draft picks. Neophyte Frank Ntilikina hasn’t panned out as the team had hoped, rookie Kevin Knox started off sluggishly and been pretty inconsistent all season, and the supporting cast has been a streaky hodge-podge of fringe rotation players. But somehow, things are looking up.

Sure, the Knicks have perhaps the most tone-deaf and inept owner in the NBA in James Dolan, but they will be hitting the offseason armed with tons of salary cap space in the league’s largest market as well as a solid shot at the 1st-overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft — the draft that will likely be forever known as The Zion Draft. New York could quickly become a top destination on every free agent’s list, but for now, they simply need to finish out the season leaving some sort of favorable impression upon potential suitors, since they’ll be competing against their own cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets as well as both LA franchises in the free agency extravaganza which will ensue this summer.

Second-year guard Damyean Dotson and rookie center Mitchell Robinson have been exactly the kinds of players Knicks fans can look forward to for years to come. Neither garnered much attention when they were drafted, nor at any point early in the season for that matter. But since the trade deadline, Dotson has led the Knicks in scoring with 14.5 points per game, while shooting 38.1% from beyond the arc in 6.3 attempts per contest; he’s also the only Knick eclipsing 30 minutes on the floor each night during that span. And Robinson has been a menace in the paint since the deadline, averaging 3.3 blocks and 8.4 rebounds in just 22.3 minutes of action per game while shooting 66.7% from the field. And as of late, Mario Hezonja and Emmanuel Mudiay have managed to string together some memorable performances, albeit in very small sample sizes. The Knicks as a whole aren’t playing for much right now, but as illustrated in their recent comeback defeat of the LeBron-led Los Angeles Lakers - whether for contracts, the fans, their own development, or the sheer thrill of it all - the players are still competing like every game matters. They are not to be slept on.

Be sure to check out the Knicks perspective over at Posting and Toasting.