The LA Clippers will host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday evening for the first of a three-game homestand. Continue reading for our Clippers-Pistons preview.
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 p.m. PT
How to Tune in: Bally Sports SoCal, ClipperVision, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
LA Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Terance Mann – Paul George – Marcus Morris – Ivica Zubac
Detroit Pistons: Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Duren
Clippers: Kawhi Leonard Out (Knee), Luke Kennard Doubtful (Calf), Paul George Questionable (Ankle)
Pistons: Cade Cunningham Out (Shin), Isaiah Stewart Out (Toe)
The Big Picture
If the Clippers want to get back on track and further remove themselves from a mostly disappointing start to the season, it’s games like these that they desperately need to win. And for the better part of the past couple of seasons, these seem like the kinds of games the Clippers have refused to take care of. To their credit, these inferior opponents haven’t really been an issue this season — five of L.A.’s eight wins to this point have come against the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers. So, a date with a bottom-tier Detroit Pistons squad is one that many should consider right up the Clippers’ alley.
But simply beating the Pistons wouldn’t feel fulfilling enough. It would be beneficial for the Clippers actually to look good while doing so, rather than having another nail-biting win at home over a bad team as they did in weeks past against the Lakers and Rockets.
The Detroit Pistons are not a good basketball team at the moment. And with Cade Cunningham out due to a shin injury, the Pistons surely have no business sticking around in this one with a team as talented as the Clippers. However, they do have areas of strength that the Clippers must focus on limiting. Detroit leads the NBA in free-throw attempts (29.2) and free-throw makes per game (22.7). The Clippers are the only team in the NBA allowing fewer than 15.0 free-throw makes, which is a number they failed to stay under last game against Dallas. The more easy points they allow begin to add up when you consider how difficult it is for the Clips to muster up points.
Still, there are an overwhelming amount of weaknesses on Detroit’s end — ones unsurprising for a team with a 3-12 record. Chief among the Pistons’ issues is their inability to put the ball in the basket. Their 42.9 field goal percentage ranks dead last in the league, which goes hand in hand with their second-worst 21.1 assists per game. If the L.A.’s defense on Thursday night is on par with what it’s been all season, the Clips should feel even better about its chances of winning this game.
Clippers vs. Pistons Game Notes
- Rotations: It’s no secret that the Clippers’ rotations have been weird (bad). Repeatedly either not playing Robert Covington or hardly using him has been tough to figure out, as has the allocation of minutes going to Terance Mann. And with Kawhi Leonard still out and Luke Kennard battling a calf injury, there should be enough minutes available for all of L.A.’s wings and forwards to make an impact. The keyword there is should because there’s no telling how Ty Lue will manage this one.
- Detroit’s Defense vs. L.A.’s offense: For as bad as Detroit’s offense might be without Cade Cunningham, their defense is worse — statistically, they are the lowest-rated defense in the NBA. But can the Clippers’ league-worst offense capitalize in perhaps its most advantageous spot of this young season? If so, it will likely fall on the hands of Paul George, who has cooled off tremendously since carrying the team for a little more than a week.
- Keeping tabs on Nerlens Noel: The Clippers were linked to potential trades involving Nerlens Noel and the New York Knicks during this past offseason before Detroit acquired the veteran big. Noel hasn’t truly found a spot in the Pistons’ lineup but could earn some opportunities on Thursday with Isiah Stewart injured and going to miss some time. As the Clips are seemingly still in pursuit of a backup big, it’ll be worth paying attention to how Noel looks and what he could potentially bring to the Clippers should they re-engage with his camp at some point in the season.