The LA Clippers come back from the All-Star break with a big matchup against the Pacific Division leading Sacramento Kings
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to Watch: Clippervision, Bally Sports SoCal
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Marcus Morris Sr. – Mason Plumlee
Kings: De’Aaron Fox – Kevin Huerter – Harrison Barnes – Keegan Murray – Domantas Sabonis
Clippers: Ivica Zubac out (right calf), Brandon Boston Jr. (G League Assignment), Jason Preston (G League Assignment).
Kings: KZ Okpala out (knee), Neemias Queta (G League Assignment), Keon Ellis (G League Assignment).
The Big Picture
The Clippers head out of the All-Star break and into one of the biggest games of the season so far. The Kings are exactly one game ahead of them in the Western Conference standings and a win would essentially move the Clippers into third place.
But that won’t even be the main storyline, nor will that be on the minds of most fans. The big story that everyone is anticipating is the Clippers debut of Russell Westbrook. The Clippers came out of the trade deadline with three very good additions and they looked poised to make a run during the final stretch of the regular season.
But while those moves were safe and solid, the Clippers front office just took one of the biggest gambles of the season with not much time remaining for experimenting. There’s no questioning Westbrook’s talent. He is a former MVP and will ultimately retire as one of the best guards to ever play the game.
What seems to be the permeating question among Clipper Nation is how will he fit with the current roster. Westbrook has always been a player who likes to have the ball in his hands and the Clippers have two of those guys in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, both of whom were major proponents of the Clippers adding a veteran point guard.
The Clippers also have younger players in Terance Mann who has been the starting point guard, and Bones Hyland, who has shown he is worthy of playing time. Westbrook figures to cut into both of their minutes.
There is a pathway though to make this a successful signing. It’s up to the Tyronn Lue and the coaching staff to make this work. As mentioned before, there is little time left to experiment. This game is as big as any and not only can the Clippers climb in the standings, they can put some distance between them and the Phoenix Suns who are getting a monster addition of their own in Kevin Durant.
One other thing the Clippers need to monitor is the health of Ivica Zubac. Zubac is officially out against the Kings likely giving way to Mason Plumlee getting the start. It may likely be a precaution but the Clippers were just starting to get healthy with a clean injury report. They can’t afford any more injuries with all the experimenting they’re doing.
The Sacramento Kings come to town on the second night of a back-to-back and as arguably the biggest surprise in the NBA this season. The Kings are the current holders of the NBA’s longest active streak of missing the postseason and barring some unforeseen catastrophe, this will be the year they end that.
They are leading the Pacific Division and are currently third in the Western Conference standings with 25 games left to be played. They’ve been winning on the offensive end. They are first in the NBA in points per game at 119.5 and second in offensive rating at 118.1. It’s the defensive end where they haven’t been as good. They are 23rd in both opponents points per game (117.2) and defensive rating (115.9).
Despite being on a back-to-back, they will be coming into The Crypt looking to steal a game and prove to the world that they should be taken seriously. They have one of the better duos in the NBA with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. Both are coming off All-Star appearances. Defense is going to be key. If the Clippers can limit Sacramento’s offensive output, they will put themselves in good position to win this game.