By the Numbers:
Los Angeles Clippers:
43-19 (23-7 Home); 3rd in West
Offensive Rating – 109.5 (7th); Defensive Rating – 102.3 (7th)
30-28 (14-14 Road); 8th in East
Offensive Rating – 103.2 (22nd); Defensive Rating – 103.9 (10th)
Where The Clippers Have The Upper Hand:
Breakout defensive star Larry Sanders is one of the premier rim-defenders in basketball – he blocks over nine percent of opponent’s shots while he’s on the floor, and Milwaukee as a team surrenders just a 60.9% field goal percentage at the rim, fourth-best in the league, according to Hoopdata.com. However, the Bucks aren’t much better than average in other aspects of defensive play. Their backcourt defense has been one of the weak links on that end all season – Brandon Jennings in particular posts one of the worst defensive on/off ratings among starting point guards. Chris Paul and the rest of the starting unit needs to take advantage early before Milwaukee’s lockdown second unit checks in. Milwaukee is also a very poor defensive rebounding team (29th in defensive rebound rate), so Blake Griffin should have plenty of second-shot opportunities.
The Milwaukee offense is pretty hit-or-miss. They oftentimes have trouble spacing the floor without Mike Dunleavy on the floor, although the addition of J.J. Redick at the trade deadline has alleviated that to some degree. Most of their offense is built around the backcourt of Jennings and Monta Ellis, but they’re both a bit undersized for their respective positions and can be bullied by physical defenders. Look for the Clippers to trap Jennings on pick-and-rolls to get the ball out of his hands, forcing it to poor decision-makers like Ellis or poor shooters like Luc Mbah a Moute or Marquis Daniels.
Where The Bucks Have The Upper Hand:
The aforementioned Milwaukee second-unit has a particularly stingy defense. There is this rather funny trend where teams find it near impossible to score when Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh share the floor together (defensive rating of 89.3 – would be far and away the best in basketball over a full season). The Clippers’ bench often has trouble finding good shots in the half-court, and that issue could be even more pronounced tonight.
Offensively, J.J. Redick has given them another shooter to help space the floor, which was a serious problem over the first half of the season. He hasn’t played much, so the sample sizes are obviously small, but the Bucks have been quiet proficient on offense with a three-guard lineup of Jennings, Ellis, and Redick, with Ersan Ilyasova at power forward for bonus floor spacing. If Ilyasova can pull a Clipper big away from the basket, the shape of LA’s defense will be very strained with Redick curling around screens and the constant threat of penetration from either Jennings or Ellis.