Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 12:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Knicks: Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson, Julius Randle
Clippers: Derrick Walton Jr. – Lou Williams – Moe Harkless – JaMychal Green - Ivica Zubac
Knicks: Dennis Smith Jr Out (Oblique)
Clippers: Patrick Beverley Questionable (Wrist), Paul George Questionable (Hamstring), Kawhi Leonard Out (Knee/Rest)
The Big Picture
Yuck. Yuckity, yuck yuck. Alright, that’s out of my system. After getting blown out by a Memphis team that made 18 threes and just generally wanted to play the game of basketball more early on a Saturday morning, the Clips now face another team at 12:30 that is turning a corner and also will probably want to play some basketball. It doesn’t help that the Clippers will probably be without their two best players in Kawhi and PG (still waiting on Beverley news, although Doc did say he could play today) and that this is a day game back-to-back. However, it’s still the Knicks and losing this game will result in NBA Twitter getting sucked into a black hole, only to return once the Clippers go on some sort of winning streak. We all don’t want that to happen, do we?
As mentioned before, the Knicks are playing a better brand of basketball since firing David Fizdale in early December and replacing him with former Westchester Knicks head coach Mike Miller. The Knicks are 6-7 since the move (Fizdale was 4-18), and despite still playing wonky lineups that have way too many forwards, Miller has been able to elevate the play of most of the dudes on their roster. This isn’t a team that just goes through the motions anymore. Marcus Morris is playing the best ball of his career, while Julius Randle, post coach swap, has been a consistent 20 and 10 guy with elevated shooting percentages. Guards like Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina are ferocious perimeter defenders, and Reggie Bullock is back in the lineup and shooting well. Of course, you can’t talk about the Knicks without mentioning RJ Barrett, who will probably make one of the All-Rookie Teams this season, and Mitchell Robinson, one of the longest players in the league, who could give the Clippers fits inside. This game reeks of another let down loss. Hopefully, the Clippers rise to the occasion.
The health of the Clippers stinks right now: Out of 37 games played, PG and Kawhi have only played in 18 together. They are 14-4 when this occurs. We all know this though. However, when it comes to the full roster, all 15 players have only played one time together. If it’s not a hamstring, it’s a wrist injury. If it’s not an ankle, it’s an illness. I’m very pro load management and not stressing over seeding or wins right now, given it’s only January, but sheesh, the Clips have the be one of the more beaten up contenders right now.
Marcus Morris maybe in a Clips uniform?: Mook has been the subject of trade rumors as of late. With his expiring contract and solid play, he will be in the backs of many contenders domes as the season progresses. The Clippers reportedly offered Morris $41 million this offseason, which he surprisingly turned down for a one-year, $15 million deal with NY. If the front-office likes him enough to offer him big money on multiple years, they probably like him enough to trade for him come deadline time. I waver on whether the Clips will be players in the trade market later this season, as it will most likely hinge on injuries. There are some holes on the team and assets to deal (our 2020 first rounder, Robinson, Patterson, maybe Mo) but do they need to? We will see. Keep an eye out for Mook though in the next couple of months.
The Zu dilemma: I think this has been one of the the most discussed topics among Clipper faithful this season — Ivica Zubac getting more minutes. Advanced stats say he’s one of the better bigs in the league for the time he gets, and he passes every eye test. He’s gotten consistently better on both ends, is a terror at the rim, finishes well, is expanding his range, and makes this team better defensively ten fold. He is only averaging 17.5 minutes a game right now. I think most would be happy to see that number swell to around 23-25 minutes. Trezz is having an amazing year so far, and should be getting the minutes he is playing, but Zu is so much better defensively and it shows in plus/minus and just watching the game.