With the Clippers sitting in ninth place at the bottom of the play-in bracket, the desire for Paul George’s return to the floor might be as high as it has ever been this season. That was clearly seen in their most recent early-afternoon struggle against the Grizzlies, when they lost by 15 even as Ja Morant and Steven Adams were sidelined. Unfortunately for the Clippers, they won’t be able to enjoy much of a break as they will face Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks less than 24 hours after the conclusion of their game against the Grizzlies.
While the duo of Trae Young and John Collins can strike fear into the hearts of many, it’s interesting to note that they hold a record of 17-21, only having won three of their last ten games. The Clippers match the Hawks’ three wins of their last ten games, but this is to show that the matchup might be a bit more even than one would expect.
Just look at how Marcus Morris Sr. has been playing as of late — he’s scored more than 20 points in five of the last six games he’s played (and has cited his recent switch to a semi-pescatarian diet as a factor in his success). In those games, he’s hit nearly 37 percent of his threes with a 44 percent clip from the field, effectively establishing himself as the number one offensive option without Paul George. With Ivica Zubac back, it’s not a stretch to expect that the Clippers might gradually move towards the consistency that they need to ensure they don’t miss out from the playoffs in its entirety.
The Clippers can’t count on Morris alone to get a win, especially when facing a team as dangerous as the Hawks. The extended absence of Luke Kennard has removed one of the most reliable options on offense from the mix, which puts even more pressure on players like Terance Mann and Justise Winslow to step up. While we have seen Amir Coffey and Winslow make their mark at times, a win against the Hawks (and a return to some semblance of normalcy on the court) will require a full team effort with little margin for error.
When: Sunday, January 9 at 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Crypto.com Center, Los Angeles, California
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Peachtree Hoops
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Hawks: Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter, John Collins, Onyeka Okongwu
Clippers: Paul George, Isaiah Hartenstein, Luke Kennard, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston, Justise Winslow — OUT
Hawks: Jalen Johnson — PROBABLE; Clint Capela, Gorgui Dieng, De’Andre Hunter, Solomon Hill — OUT