L.A. Clippers at Denver Nuggets
March 7, 2013
7:30 p.m. PST
This is a tough one. The Clippers roll into Denver having won eight of their last 10 but still holding onto only a 3.5-game lead on the Nuggets for the 5-seed in the West. Denver, meanwhile, has won seven of 10 and has a 26-3 record at the Pepsi Center. So basically, this should be fun. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. The Nuggets run like crazy. Should the Clippers get into a running game with them or try to get them into their half-court sets?
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): If you’re the Clippers, you have to get the Nuggets into their half-court offense, where they’re not nearly as strong as in transition. A running game in Denver is a dangerous one to play.
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders—the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”—but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” A close third is “never try to outrun Denver in Denver.” You’ll get winded and lose, especially on the second night of a back-to-back.
Michael Shagrin, (@mshaggy): Refer to Patrick’s answer. There’s no sense in trying to add to wisdom distilled from The Princess Bride.
2. Ty Lawson is averaging 21.7 points per game and 7.7 assists per game over his past 19 contests. Is this playing level sustainable?
Katz: Is he going to average 22 and 8 for the rest of his career? Probably not. But is Lawson on the way to becoming a legitimate top-8 point guard? Probably. He’s so quick and scheming and when he gets hot, he can absolutely shoot the lights out.
James: Lawson has a +10.1 net rating at home, and a -2.2 net rating on the road. He also plays faster and protects the ball better at home. Given Denver’s home-friendly end-of-year schedule, those figures might be sustainable in the short term. But although he’s a very good young player, I’m dubious that the rest of his career looks that stellar.
Shagrin: Yes and no. Yes, those numbers are sustainable if Lawson continues to play 38 minutes a game like he did in February. No, those numbers aren’t sustainable if George Karl returns to a more balanced distribution of minutes at point guard between Lawson and Andre Miller. Nonetheless, the trend these gaudy numbers document says quite a bit about Lawson’s long-term potential.
3. A night after he posted a triple double, how does Blake Griffin match up against the Nuggets’ defense?
Katz: A game in Denver is always rough as the second half of a back-to-back and Kenneth Faried’s constant energy doesn’t make that any easier. All that being said, maybe Griffin doesn’t throw up another triple double, but he’s been playing so well lately that it’s hard to bet against him.
James: Blake has struggled against Denver this year, so don’t be shocked to see a potentially fatigued Griffin getting frustrated by the high-energy (and rested) Nuggets front line. But as long as Blake is adequate, the Clippers can still win — provided they knock down threes. When they went 11-for-25 from three against Denver, they won big. When they went 5-for-29, they lost big.
Shagrin: Griffin’s had trouble against Denver this season, particularly while playing in the Mile High City. Though Denver’s high octane offense bodes well for Blake’s highlight-reel counter attacks, Griffin’s real test will be stopping the Nuggets’ athletic wing corps when they inevitably bust their way into the lane past their primary defender.