The Clippers have lost three in a row and are once again having to plan around the availability of stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. After a couple of days off, the Clippers head to Denver for the first game of a back-to-back against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets—the top seed in the Western Conference. Check out our preview below.
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
When: 7:00 PM PT
How to Watch: TNT
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Terance Mann – Paul George* – Marcus Morris – Ivica Zubac
Note: as indicated below, PG is questionable. Norm Powell or Nicolas Batum may start in his spot if he and Kawhi do not play.
Nuggets: Jamal Murray – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Michael Porter, Jr. – Aaron Gordon – Nikola Jokic
Clippers: Paul George, Questionable (hamstring); Nicolas Batum, Out (Ankle); Brandon Boston Jr, Out (G-League); Moussa Diabate, Out (G-League); Jason Preston Out (G-League)
Nuggets: Jeff Green, Out (hand); Collin Gillespie, Out (leg)
The Big Picture
At the time of writing, the LA Clippers may have Paul George and/or Kawhi Leonard available—or neither (Editor’s Note: Kawhi is now off the injury report). But the Clippers still have an elite defense even without PG or Kawhi (not to minimize their contributions on that end, of course). The Nuggets, on the other hand, have a bottom-six defense and are twentieth in defensive rebounding.
In theory, the Clippers may be able to lead with their defense: do their best to “handle” Nikola Jokic, limit Murray and Gordon’s impact, and win the bench minutes by a significant margin. For example, the Clippers were without Leonard, George, and Kennard when they played the Nuggets in November. The Clippers lost by 10 points, but they actually won the second half. Jokic and Murray only combined for 40 points, and the Clippers won the non-Jokic minutes by nine points. The problem that game was Aaron Gordon, who scored 29 points on 12/16 shooting.
If the Clippers can replicate this dynamic, and get a significant contribution from Kennard (who did not play in game one) and/or Powell (who only had 11 points), the Clippers will have a chance to steal this game.
While the Clippers have a path to a win, the forces working against them are significant. In the Ty Lue era, the Clippers are 2-6 against the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic—regardless of who plays for the Clippers—will be the best player on the floor. The Nuggets are 14-3 at home, and have the best record in the Western Conference.
The Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are currently a 6.5 point favorite according to ESPN’s PickCenter Analysis, and rightfully so. The Clippers will have to dig deep to get this win.
Covington Back in the Rotation?: During Wednesday’s media availability, coach Ty Lue said that Covington might see a bigger role in Thursday’s game (h/t Ohm Youngmisuk). From whom Covington will be taking minutes is unknown; hopefully, Terance Mann does not get benched as a result. But if Covington can contribute on defense, rebound, and be thoughtful with his shot selection, it will be nice to have him back in the rotation.
That about does it for this preview of the super short handed Clippers’ game against the Blazers. As always, check out The Lob The Jam The Podcast and Clips ‘N Dip for analysis throughout the week, and follow us on Twitter to watch the game with us!