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Clippers vs. Knicks Preview: Nicolas Batum continues to be the motor for L.A.

The Frenchman has been the team’s hidden gem.

LA Clippers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

My history teacher won’t leave me alone: every time I wander into his classroom, he boasts about how his New York Knicks have a better record than my L.A. Clippers.

Not for long, though — after completing last game’s electrifying 24-point comeback, the Clippers have 23 wins and 24 losses (one more game in the win column than the Knicks). And a win against them on their Sunday morning matchup will push the Clippers one more game forward and away from the New York team.

In the driver’s seat, none other than 13-year veteran Nicolas Batum.

To start this week, he led a tour de force against the Indiana Pacers, logging 32 points (all in the second half), five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks to help the team snap out of a two-game slide.

He stayed on fire on Friday night after missing a game due to COVID protocols: Batum stuffed the stat sheets with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. The recent feats he’s been putting on, we hope, are only glimpses of what he’ll continue to provide for the 213.

Against the Knicks, he’ll look to end his sublime week on an even higher note. Expect to see him making runs around and spotting up behind the three-point line — he’s shooting a career-high 41.4 percent from long range. Off of defensive rebounds, Batum can also be seen pushing the pace and beating opponents down the court for quick buckets. On the defensive end, he has always carried a near-suffocating presence. He can do it all, from reading offenses and getting steals to locking down the opponent’s first option.

Although Batum has been special for the Clippers recently, that doesn’t entirely mean that it’ll only be him driving the team forward. Each of the Clippers has been taking turns behind the wheel, after all.

Guards Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard are fresh off a prolific fourth quarter that secured the win for the Clippers: they combined for 13 crucial points that gave the team a one-point edge over the 76ers. Maybe Marcus Morris Sr. will make it rain from three against his former team. Regardless of from whose hands the offense catches momentum, a combined effort from the team’s core players will help the team outscore the Knicks.

In the Clippers’ favor, the Knicks are not necessarily the best offensive team — if anything, they are one of the worst.

They are held down to just 104 points per contest this season (fourth-worst in league). You can blame the number of possessions they get per game: only 95.4 (worst in league). Add the fact that they are shooting a not-so-efficient 43.6 percent from the field, it’s easy to grasp their struggles at finding the bottom of the net. It won’t be any easier against the Clippers’ tough-defending wing players and rotation of three centers, all capable of sealing the rim shut on defense.

The Clippers are headed to the “Mecca of basketball” with a win streak and a winning record on the line — and for me, bragging rights in history class, of course.


Game Information

When: Sunday, January 23 at 10 a.m. PT

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN

Opposing perspective: Posting & Toasting

Projected Starting Lineups

Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac

Knicks: Alec Burks, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson

Injuries/Absences

Clippers: Paul George, Keon Johnson, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT

Knicks: Ryan Arcidiacano, Derrick Rose, Luka Samanic, Kemba Walker — OUT


This post will serve as the game thread. Enjoy the game, and comment below.