The Clippers take on the surging Nets in a rematch of one of the best games of the season so far. Kevin Durant is out, but all Clippers are active, and this should be a very good test for both teams. Check out the full preview of the Clippers’ showdown against the Nets below.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 5:00 ET
How to Watch: ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Projected Starting Lineups
Nets: James Harden – Kyrie Irving – Joe Harris – Bruce Brown – Jeff Green
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Nicolas Batum – Serge Ibaka
Nets: Kevin Durant Out (Hamstring), Iman Shumpert Out (Hamstring), Spencer Dinwiddie Out (Knee), Nic Claxton Out (Knee)
The Big Picture
The Clippers remain close to the top of the Western Conference standings despite some injury issues, as the Lakers are dealing with some bad injury luck of their own. The Clippers’ offense is excellent, while their defense is hanging around a fringe top-10 mark, making it decent but far from exceptional. As the Clippers continue to get healthy and work off some rust, hopefully play on both sides of the ball will improve. As is, the Clippers are in a pretty good spot with the All Star Game approaching, both in terms of the standings and with overall play. Most of their key players have had good seasons, with Luke Kennard and maybe Serge Ibaka being the exceptions. If they stay healthy, they are a virtual lock for a top 3 seed, and could even get to 1 with Anthony Davis being out as long as the Jazz regress at some point.
The Nets are surging, having won five games in a row, and are now in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. They’ve gone on this run despite superstar Kevin Durant being absent, as Kyrie Irving and James Harden have been more than capable of picking up the load in his stead. They now have the top-ranked offense in the entire NBA, which is enough to push their Net Rating to 5th despite a still-awful defense. The Nets have shown they can lock in for a quarter at a time, but not much more than that, and as Durant is one of their most impactful defenders, they will struggle even more without him. New players are still being added as the Nets try to balance their roster, with former Thunder forward Andre Roberson being the latest addition. Roberson’s defensive aptitude was once legendary, but it remains to be seen if he has anything left in the tank after several lost years due to injury.
Knocking off the Rust: Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Nic Batum all looked a bit rusty on Friday after missing several games apiece, with George understandably looking the most off after missing seven games. That the Clippers were able to survive subpar games from each of their three best players thus far this season says a lot about their depth, defensive capabilities, and the sheer power of their stars. That said, to be able to keep up with Brooklyn’s high-powered offense, they will need more from each of these guys tonight. Fewer turnovers, more three-point makes, and a higher frequency of drives to the basket should all be perfectly possible against Brooklyn’s porous defense, even with the weight of their defensive duties weighing them down.
Guarding James Harden and Kyrie Irving: Speaking of, the Clippers are going to have their hands full with Kyrie and Harden, even with Durant out of the game. Harden has finished as a top five MVP candidate for the better part of a half-decade for a reason, and he’s been absolutely surgical in running Brooklyn’s offense while also shooting the ball more efficiently than he has in years. Irving, meanwhile, is as deadly a one-on-one scorer as there is in basketball, and is just sizzling from all over the court. George, Batum, Leonard, and Pat Beverley will all assuredly take their cracks at each guy, and hopefully the combined effort of the Clippers will be enough to stem the tide. An important thing for the Clippers’ defenders will be to stay out of foul trouble, not just to keep two excellent free throw shooters off the line, but to keep their own best players in the game.
Getting More from Serge and Zu: The Nets’ best true center (and really their only true center right now) is a beyond washed up DeAndre Jordan. Yet, Serge Ibaka was 3-11 in the first game against the Nets three weeks ago, while Ivica Zubac was a mere 1-2. The two big men combined to play only 37 minutes combined, as Ty Lue went small down the stretch. While the Clippers’ small lineup is good, it’s usually not good to be the team on the defensive that’s reacting to the other team. The Clippers have two big men who should be able to do well against the Nets and make their size a legitimate advantage, especially Zu. If those guys can play better this time around, it should help to off-set any rust from George and Leonard.
That should just about do it for this preview of the Clippers’ exciting game against the Nets. This post will serve as the game thread, as usual, so stick around!