The Clippers, who have not played since Wednesday, take on a quite capable Knicks team, but do have homecourt advantage – and the Knicks will be without star Jalen Brunson.
Where: Crypto.Com Arena, Los Angeles, California
When: 1:00 PM PT
How to Watch: Bally Sports SoCal
Projected Starting Lineups
Knicks: Immanuel Quickley – Quentin Grimes – RJ Barrett – Julius Randle – Mitchell Robinson
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Marcus Morris – Ivica Zubac
Knicks: Jalen Brunson Out (Foot), Isaiah Hartenstein Probable (Ankle)
Clippers: Norm Powell Out (Shoulder), Jason Preston Out (G-League), Moussa Diabate Out (G-League)
The Big Picture
The Clippers have surged up the standings over the past week while barely playing basketball. With a mere two game win streak, the Clips have jumped from 8th to 5th, as the Warriors (three losses in a row), Wolves (two losses in a row), and Mavs (3-7 in their last 10) have struggled. The Clippers, after having played the most games in the NBA through the All Star Break, are in the midst of a ridiculous stretch, where from last Sunday (March 5) through Saturday March 18, they will have played just four games. For an old, beaten-up team with lots of new pieces, that amount of downtime is great news for the Clippers, who get to rest and relax and practice at home to prepare for the stretch run. Now all they need to do is win the (very manageable) games ahead of them.
The Knicks have lost two games in a row and will be without their best player, Jalen Brunson, in this one, but it’s hard to view their season has anything other than a success. Before those losses, the Knickerbockers had won nine straight, pushing them up to 5th in the East and within shouting distance of the Cavs at 4th. Shockingly for a Tom Thibodeau team, the Knicks are winning based on their offense (5th in the NBA), not their defense (16th). The Knicks’ offensive prowess doesn’t rely on dazzling sets or brilliant shooting, but on the possession battle – they’re 2nd in the NBA in offensive rebounding rate, and turn the ball over at the 5th lowest rate. They will miss Brunson’s scoring punch and mistake-free play, but they still have weapons, and Quickley is probably the best backup point guard in the NBA alongside Tyus Jones.
Return of the Hart: This game marks the return of Isaiah Hartenstein, who was a key player for the Clippers last season as their primary backup center. Hart has had an up and down season for the Knicks, and his passing, his best skill, has not been utilized to its fullest extent as it was on the Clippers. Still, he’s been in their rotation just about all season for the second unit, and has had some monster games for the Knicks. Its impossible to know if the Clippers could have brought him back for the Tax Payer Mid-level Exception or if the Knicks’ somewhat higher offer was always going to trump it, but the Clippers would be in an infinitely better spot if they’d rolled Hart back instead of trying the John Wall experiment. I doubt a one-year tenure warrants a video for Hart, but I would expect a rousing ovation, and he fully deserves it.
Marcus Morris, Starting: Last week, there were some very strong rumblings that Marcus Morris was going to get moved out of the starting unit. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, and at just about every press conference he’s had since then Ty Lue has consistently mentioned Morris with the starting group. To be as fair as possible to Ty, Marcus’ minutes have decreased in recent weeks, with Eric Gordon, Terance Mann, and Nic Batum all closing over him on occasion. At this point, it seems incredibly unlikely Marcus will budge from his role, though the rotation will be awfully cramped when Norm Powell returns. Hopefully Ty’s stubbornness does not result in catastrophe.