The Atlanta Hawks have the league’s worst net rating and the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The L.A. Clippers are on the second night of a back-to-back, without all three of Patrick Beverley, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard.
This one’s gonna be interesting.
Since we’re only a couple hours away from tip-off with this late second-night-of-a-back-to-back preview, here’s a few things I’ll be watching for tonight:
- Given the amount of firepower missing from the Clippers’ starting lineup (all of it), I expect that Doc Rivers will adjust by starting both of his second-unit scorer, placing Lou Williams into the starting lineup as well as benching Ivica Zubac in favor of Montrezl Harrell. Zu will still get his minutes on the second unit, but without Beverley, George, and Leonard, the Clippers simply need to get the most out of Williams and Harrell’s firepower. Normally, the pair struggle against better, lengthier starting lineup defenders, but the Hawks have the one of the worst defenses in the league, so if there was a game where the Clippers could get away with leaning supremely heavily on those two, it’s this one.
- Who else will the Clippers start (and play)? I’d guess that Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, and Moe Harkless join Williams and Harrell in the starting lineup, but that means the Clippers will have to lean deep into their bench to fill out the second unit on the perimeter, potentially playing big with Harkless at power forward at times (meaning a greater reliance on Patrick Patterson and JaMychal Green) and turning to depth pieces like Derrick Walton Jr., Jerome Robinson, and Terance Mann (will Amir Coffey get a rare call-up on his two-way deal?).
- Even if Lou and Trez both have big nights (it’s not unreasonable to expect them to each reach 30 tonight), the Clippers are going to need to get other points somewhere. Will Landry Shamet have an explosive night to continue his recent good play? Can Rodney Mcgruder or Maurice Harkless, who have each been better scorers in the past than this season, show a little more of their game? Can Jerome Robinson repeat his 21-point performance against the Hawks from Atlanta (his career high, with his second-best performance being a 10-point game last season)? Somehow, the Clippers will need to find enough offense to make up the difference between what Lou and Trez provide, and the 100-110 points necessary to win the game.
- The Hawks are pretty miserable offensively, having the league’s worst offensive rating according to basketball-reference, but Trae Young is a phenom. The sophomore guard is averaging 29.2 points and 8.6 assists per game. With Patrick Beverley out and Moe Harkless potentially limited (both by a nagging injury and the Clippers’ need to play offensive threats to sustain their scoring), players like Landry Shamet and Rodney McGruder could struggle to contain Young. Worth noting: Atlanta is 2-5 in the 7 games where Young has scored 40 or more points this season; letting him go off while containing the other Hawks might still be enough to emerge victorious.
UPDATE: Trae Young is also OUT tonight for the Hawks, meaning the Hawks will have to lean more heavily on new addition Jeff Teague, as well as secondary scorers John Collins, Jabari Parker, De’Andre Hunter, and Kevin Huerter.