The Clippers are in the dumps, and maybe the last team in the NBA they want to see is on the docket with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
When: 7:00 PM PT
How to Watch: TNT, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Ivica Zubac
Nuggets: Reggie Jackson – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Michael Porter Jr. – Aaron Gordon – Nikola Jokic
Clippers: Mason Plumlee Out (Knee), Brandon Boston Jr. Out (Quad), Kobe Brown Out (G-League)
Nuggets: Jamal Murray Out (Hamstring), Vlatko Cancar Out (Knee)
The Big Picture
The Clippers have lost five games in a row, and, frankly, have already lost the trust of fans. No one player, even the already-maligned James Harden, have played atrociously – but not a single one has played well either. With Bones Hyland firmly out of the rotation and Kobe Brown in the G-League, the rotations have been cleared up. Norm Powell and Moussa Diabate well be off the bench early to play with the starters, Russ and PG will head the second unit, and Zu will anchor the bench as well to hold up the defense. PJ Tucker will play mostly power forward and a bit of small-ball center if the situation calls for it, and Terance Mann will plug all the gaps. Hopefully the Clippers will play at least a bit better as rotations, roles, and expectations fully clarify.
The defending champion Denver Nuggets are 8-2 with the third-best Net Rating in the NBA, behind only the Sixers and Celtics. As one would imagine, the Nuggets are a well-balanced team, with the fifth-best offense and sixth-best defense in the association. The last three games have been without starting point guard and second-best player Jamal Murray, who is out for the rest of November. The starting lineup with Reggie Jackson as his replacement has still worked very well – it is the bench that has taken a hit without Murray to stagger in with them. Still, even without Murray, and with slow starts to the season by youngsters like Christian Braun and Zeke Nnaji, the Nuggets are going to be good as long as Nikola Jokic is playing. The big Serbian is the best player in the NBA on a night-to-night basis, averaging a preposterous 29.8 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 8.3 assists on a 66.8% True Shooting. He has always killed the Clippers, and there’s no reason to think they’ll stop him anytime soon.
In-Season Tournament Game 2: This is the second game of the in-season tournament for the Clippers. You can read in-depth explanations of the tournament elsewhere online, but for the purpose of the viewing experience there are only a couple of unique things. First, the jerseys and court will be different. Second, scoring differential matters in the tournament, so teams thus far have been pressing their advantage even with a big lead, like the Mavs did on Friday. If the Clippers lose this one, they will be more or less eliminated from the tournament. Oh well.
The Funniest Outcome: The Nuggets have owned the Clippers since Game 5 of the 2020 Playoffs, mercilessly beating them down in just about every game. Thus, it would be hilarious if the Clippers were to win over the Nuggets now, when they are at their absolute lowest. Look, it could happen. Jamal Murray is out, and the Nuggets’ bench is worse than the Clippers’, somehow. Maybe the NBA gods are in the mood for a joke that isn’t at the Clippers’ expense for a change.
Kobe to the G: The Clippers announced late yesterday that they are sending Kobe Brown to the G-League, and that he won’t play in this game. On one hand, I get it – he’s not playing right now, and they want to give him reps. On the other, PJ Tucker, while still solid (if I’m being generous) defensively is a massive liability on offense. Kobe is a liability himself on defense, but his offensive skillset is way ahead of Tucker, and most importantly he’ll actually take threes. At bottom, neither is a good option, but we know exactly what PJ is, and he’s not magically going to improve on offense. But Kobe just might get better at defense with reps. This is a minor thing, but I get why it is bugging fans.