By the numbers:
Los Angeles Clippers:
41-18, 3rd in West
Offensive Rating – 109.3 (7th); Defensive Rating – 102.2 (5th)
36-21, 2nd in East
Offensive Rating – 103.5 (21st); Defensive Rating – 98.6 (1st)
Where The Clippers Have The Upper Hand:
Indiana will be without starting center and Defensive Player of The Year candidate Roy Hibbert. He was suspended for one game following the kerfuffle in Tuesday’s game against Golden State. Ian Mahinmi is expected to start in his place. As several of us mentioned in today’s 3-on-3, Mahinmi should do a fine job stepping in for Hibbert. In fact, if you swap Hibbert for Mahinmi and leave the rest of the lineup intact, it’s actually one of the most dominant units in the league. Hill, Stephenson, George, West, and Mahinmi have outscored opponents by nearly 20 points per 100 possessions this season.
Where the Clippers will be able to take advantage, however, is in the 2nd unit. With Mahinmi starting, Jeff Pendergraph (a lousy defensive big) will be given more minutes, and also look for the Pacers to go small with Danny Granger at power forward and Tyler Hansbrough at center. With either marginal players thrust into prominent roles, or other players playing out of position, Indiana’s normally impeccable defensive rotations could see some lapses. It will be up to the Clippers to take advantage of those opportunities as they appear. If the Pacers do turn to a Granger/Hansbrough tandem, there could be plenty of offensive rebounds to be had as well.
Where The Pacers Have The Upper Hand:
Danny Granger returned to the Pacers lineup on Saturday against Detroit. In his two appearances this season, he’s played just 37 minutes and has shot just 2-for-17. It’s pretty hard to spin a guy shooting 11.8% from the floor into an advantage, but the fact remains that Granger is a former All-Star, and odds are good that sooner or later he’s going to find his shooting stroke. The Pacers’ 2nd unit offense has been anemic this season, and even that might be generous – they’ve rotated through a number of different combinations, and several of them fail to reach even 80 points per 48 minutes or 40% shooting from the floor. Normally this would be a feast for the defensive prowess of the Clippers’ bench, but Granger is the type of player that could throw a monkey wrench into that by knocking down tough shots that someone like Sam Young might clang off the stanchion.
One lineup that could give the Clippers problems is when Indiana plays both Granger and George on the wings. LA’s problems with wing defense are well-documented, and George and Granger will dwarf whoever is guarding them (especially if Billups is playing the two). Look for the Clippers to possibly counter with Matt Barnes and Grant Hill on the floor together.