Happy Martin Luther King day, blogissists. While most working and educated folks have this day off to remember the wise words of one of our nation’s greatest leaders (and if you have 17 minutes, you can do so here), the New Jersey Nets of Brick City Newark fly to Los Angeles to take on superhuman Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers of Lob City.
The Clippers boast an offensive rating of 108.3, sixth in the NBA, and a defensive rating of 105.2, just 24th in the NBA. Nevertheless, they currently lead the Pacific Division with a 6-3 record, and have lost just once at home to the Chicago Bulls.
After sustaining a hamstring injury in Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lakers Clippers guard Chris Paul is questionable after x-rays came back negative. Mo Williams is doubtful with a sore right foot.
To talk a little more about today’s matchup, we have Justin DeFeo and Chris Hooker from here, as well as Charlie Widdoes from TrueHoop sister site ClipperBlog.
UPDATE: Chris Paul is ruled out for today’s game.
1. Containing Blake Griffin: How do you do it?
- Justin DeFeo: Simple answer is, you don’t. The complex answer is, well I guess you still don’t. Humphries held his own last year, but the Clippers are obviously a much improved team (with Paul in the lineup) and Griffin is a better player. If you can somehow coax him into trying to use his perimeter game more, you know, as opposed to flushing home anything within a five foot radius of the rim, then you have a chance. It’s easier said than done and it is safe to say the Nets frontcourt has their hands full today.
- Chris Hooker: Last time the Nets and Clips faced off, Kris Humphries played pretty tight defense on Blake Griffin, holding him to just 12 points and three boards. There’s no real reason to believe he can’t do that again, but there’s also no reason to believe Blake won’t go off on the weak Nets front court. Humphries has to play tight, tight, tight defense to contain this offensive force and be aggressive under the basket. But if Blake is indeed playing at the three (which is pretty foolish) he will absolutely wreck MarShon, if Avery continues to start him there.
- Charlie Widdoes, ClipperBlog: These days, you can pretty much count on 20 and 10 from Blake, but you can keep him from going for 30 or more by making him a jumpshooter. He’s become disturbingly comfortable to float around the perimeter of late, taking almost twice as many long 2’s as he did last year (3.1-5.4 per game) but still making a measly 33% from 16-23 feet.
2. Chris Paul vs. D-Will: who has the upper hand?
- Justin DeFeo: If Paul plays today he is going to be less than 100 percent, so technically DWill would have the upper-hand, but CP3 is so great, even at less than his best he can still takeover the game, especially with all the talent he has at his disposal. The real winner here though is the viewers. Watching these two artists handle the basketball is a joy to watch and a potential YouTube hit with each dribble.
- Chris Hooker: CP3. DWill is a better point guard, but CP3 plus Griffin is better than grumpy DWill plus… um, Humphries? DWill can play all the D he wants, but bottom line: LA has more toys for CP3, which means he gets the advantage.
- Charlie Widdoes: Like everyone, I’ve always wanted to see D-Will and CP3 as point guards of great teams to see which one is superior. Unfortunately, that is far from the case now. CP3 has such an obvious advantage in supporting cast that only his hamstring can prevent him from having the upper hand in this matchup.
3. And the winner is…
- Justin DeFeo: Clippers. The Nets at this point need to be thinking about baby-steps. Before we worry about “winning” a game against a team like the Clippers, let’s work on keeping it competitive heading into the fourth quarter.
- Chris Hooker: Clips. The Nets simply don’t have the talent to match up with them. Blake/DeAndre will just destroy Hump/Petro. The only hope we have is that Paul is out, and Hump shuts down Griffin like he did last season. If Caron Butler is LA’s leading scorer, than I think the Nets can keep this one close.
- Charlie Widdoes: Even if neither Paul nor Mo Williams play, the advantage the Clippers possess in their front court should be enough to overpower the Nets. Griffin puts tremendous pressure on opponents and DeAndre Jordan has begun to assume the role that the team envisioned for him as defensive anchor, in addition to his usual abuse of rims. A loss today would be a real letdown for a team coming of wins against the Heat and Lakers.