The Clippers will try to climb back over .500 against the injury-riddled Nets on the road in Brooklyn.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
When: 4:30 PM PT
How to Watch: KTLA, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Russell Westbrook
Nets: Ben Simmons – Cam Thomas – Mikal Bridges – Dorian Finney-Smith – Day’Ron Sharpe
Clippers: Terance Mann Questionable (Ankle), Mason Plumlee Out (Knee), Brandon Boston Jr. Out (Quad)
Nets: Nic Claxton Out (Ankle), Lonnie Walker Probable (Knee), Cam Johnson Doubtful (Calf)
The Big Picture
The Clippers are 3-3, which isn’t bad, especially considering all of the turmoil in the early season, but also isn’t great considering how easy their schedule has been. Hopefully James Harden slowly grows more comfortable on the Clippers and the offense starts to take off in the next few weeks. The Clippers making the trade for Harden gives them a full season to integrate him – but the Western Conference is brutal and they can’t afford to fall behind the pack record-wise. In the meantime, they need to overcome the loss of backup big man Mason Plumlee to injury, as he will likely miss multiple weeks with a sprained knee. However, the Clippers will benefit from the return of Terance Mann, which is imminent.
The Nets are 3-4, around on pace for a team most thought would be decent and in the play-in race, but they’ve gotten there in an interesting way. Projected as a scrappy, defense-first team that would struggle on offense, the Nets instead boast the 7th best offense in the NBA thus far but just the 25th ranked defense. That’s partially due to injuries to Cam Johnson and now Nic Claxton, with Claxton in particular being a massive loss on defense. The offense being strong is mostly because of one Cam Thomas, the third-year guard who has shown scoring proclivities before but has been ridiculous to start the year. Thoms is averaging 28.7 points on an efficient 58.8 True Shooting and can just make shots from all over the court. With Claxton out, the Nets might lean even more into outscoring opponents rather than stopping them.
More Harden Pick and Rolls: James Harden spent a good amount of his first game with the Clippers off-ball, and while he’s a threat because of his shooting ability, it’s a waste of his talents. I’d like to see the Clippers run more pick and rolls with him as the ball-handler, especially with Russell Westbrook or Terance (if he plays) as the screener to get them into the short roll. Harden is the best passer and third best scorer on the team, and while he still needs to get used to his teammates and the Clippers’ playbook, the sooner he takes the reins of the offense more fully the better.
The Bench Rotation: The bench might be shaken up completely in this one with Plumlee’s absence and Mann’s potential return. Does PJ Tucker serve as the backup center, with Mann, Norm Powell, Bones Hylan, and a starter (likely Harden) alongside him? That unit seems awfully small and poor defensively. Does Moussa Diabate get a chance at center alongside Tucker? That would compromise the offense, though playing alongside Harden, Bones, and Norm would help. But that’s a five-man unit and doesn’t count Mann, so if Mann is active and Moussa plays, does Ty Lue go 10-deep or does someone else (likely Bones) get cut from the rotation? If Mann does play, my guess is PJ is the backup center. If not, I think Moussa gets another shot.
No Benaissance: After a lot of hype in preseason and training camp I was excited to see Ben Simmons this year. But sadly, the Ben revenge tour has not happened. Simmons is averaging a career high in rebounds and remains a solid playmaker, but his defense just isn’t what it was a few years ago, when he was a defensive player of the year candidate. Worse, he’s simply a non-threat on offense, averaging just 6.5 points per game in 31.8 minutes on a mere 6 shots. Despite all of the talk about him not shooting, prime Ben Simmons was a menace in transition and a bully around the rim on smaller guys. That player just seems to be gone. Hopefully he just needs more time, but he looks like a role player right now.