After dropping two games in a row against the Warriors and Grizzlies to open the season, the Clippers finally seemed to be fully ready for the upcoming season in a blowout win against the Trail Blazers on Monday.
Now hosting the Cavaliers, the Clippers find themselves at a fork in the road — with a win, they may be able to let their on-court performance speak, while a loss may lead to more doubts regarding whether the Kawhi Leonard-less roster can muster up enough talent to make the playoffs. After all, the Cavaliers should be a fairly easy matchup for a team coming off of its first ever Western Conference Finals playoff series, reflected in the Vegas betting odds.
When: Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass & Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Fear the Sword
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Cavaliers: Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Clippers: Keon Johnson — QUESTIONABLE; Marcus Morris Sr., Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT
Cavaliers: Isaac Okoro — DOUBTFUL
But the Cavaliers are no team to simply scoff at. With a pair of tenacious young guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, a constant stream of offensive and defensive energy can be guaranteed. Their bigs may be the biggest advantage they have against the Clippers, with Lauri Markkanen, Jarrett Allen, and rookie Evan Mobley being imposing figures against the oft-used small ball lineup that Ty Lue’s inclined to employ. Let’s remember that the Cavaliers actually are posting a better record so far than the Clippers, winning two of their four games against the Hawks and Nuggets, both of which are quality teams that made the playoffs last year.
Despite those impressive wins, it’s not a stretch to say the Clippers have the advantage. Paul George has taken a clear leadership role on both sides of the court, averaging nearly 30 points per game and coming off of an outstanding game against the Trail Blazers when he posted a career-high eight steals. Pay close attention to Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein in this matchup, however. This may end up being the toughest assignment for the Clippers bigs, but Zubac’s work on the boards and Hartenstein’s knack for passing (and just flat-out effort) could be the answer.
Regardless, this key game will demand the hard work of everyone who takes the floor, and a win could end up being the starting point for more regular season success.