The Los Angeles Clippers are going through what is now an annual right of passage; Blake Griffin is on the shelf with an injury (his knee) while Chris Paul and J.J. Redick are battling injuries. Doc Rivers and company have rallied before under duress. Last season Griffin missed 47 games and the Clippers responded by going 31-16 without their All-Star power forward. Are they better without Griffin? Of course not. But, the Clippers are still a quality opponent.
Except, both Chris Paul and J.J. Redick missed the Clippers last game on Monday against the Denver Nuggets. DeAndre Jordan was involved in a minor car accident on his way to the airport earlier today to catch the team plane headed for New Orleans. Battered and bruised is an understatement for the Clippers roster, who could potentially be without their four best players. Los Angeles is riding a three game losing streak into the Crescent City.
Without Blake Griffin at power forward we might see a lot of Anthony Davis at center again. Alvin Gentry alluded to the team going to a small ball look more often after the victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. That should provide a mismatch for AD offensively but do not overlook the task ahead of him on defense, namely keeping DeAndre Jordan off the offensive glass.
The Pelicans have already lost twice to the Clippers this month by substantial margins. On December 2nd the Clippers came into the Smoothie King Center and secured an 18 point win despite Star Wars night. Then a week later the Pelicans tanked, sitting Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and E’Twaun Moore for the next night against Phoenix. The Clippers responded with a 28 point beat down that was somehow not as close as the 133-105 score suggested. That night remains a bright spot for this franchise regardless thanks to the impressive displays by both rookies; Buddy Hield and Cheick Diallo.
Keys to Victory
Keep up the hot shooting: The Pelicans were red hot against the Dallas Mavericks and the Clippers, especially if Chris Paul and J.J. Redick are unable to go, may have less talent available on Wednesday night. Ray Felton, Jamal Crawford, and Austin Rivers is not an intimidating rotation in the backcourt and New Orleans should find frequent open looks as a result.
Limit second chance points: Los Angeles is not a team that crashes the glass hard on offense but the lack of star power could provide the necessary motivation to change tactics and maximize the talents of one DeAndre Jordan. The remainder of the starting lineup around Anthony Davis is littered with below average rebounders for their position, it will take a team effort to keep Jordan off the offensive glass if the Pelicans play small.
Move it: This team goes into long ruts on offense where the ball stops moving and bad shots pile up at an alarming rate. No one player is solely to blame but the best players (Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans) are the most frequent culprits. AD post ups turn woefully stagnant, Holiday settles for bad pull up jumpers without really probing the defense, and Evans still waits a beat or two (or six, or seven dribbles) too long before getting the offense in motion. Scoring droughts in the second and fourth quarters result. Stop that.
What: Pelicans vs. Clippers
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
When: December 28th at 7:00 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans or 99.5 FM WRNO