By the Numbers:
Los Angeles Clippers:
44-19 (20-12 Road); 3rd in West
Offensive Rating – 109.7 (7th); Defensive Rating – 102.4 (7th)
40-22 (26-3 Home); 5th in West
Offensive Rating – 110.0 (5th); Defensive Rating – 105.8 (14th)
Where the Clippers Have the Upper Hand:
The Nuggets are not a very strong defensive team by any stretch of the imagination. The Clippers should be able to get good looks straight out of their basic screen-roll sets without much adjustment. Kenneth Faried, despite his boundless energy and athleticism, often displays a shocking lack of discipline in pick-and-roll coverage, sometimes even forgetting fundamentals as basic as keeping his hands up in potential passing lanes. To make up for their poor pick-and-roll coverage, Denver’s perimeter players will sink further than normal towards the paint, creating good opportunities on the weak side when the ball swings. Blake Griffin should also have a distinct size and strength advantage over anyone he’s matched up against.
If this were a playoff series, we would likely see Andre Iguodala defending Chris Paul for extended stretches – George Karl isn’t the type of coach that usually makes those adjustments in the regular season except in close-late situations, but it’s a look that they could see at some point. If that happens, look for Chauncey Billups to post up Ty Lawson.
Where the Nuggets Have the Upper Hand:
Denver gets a leg up in this game on scheduling alone. Denver had a day off yesterday while the Clippers are on the road, at altitude, on the second night of a back-to-back.
This was a topic that was discussed briefly on last night’s ClipperBlog Live, but the Clippers sometimes have trouble with offenses on the extremes of the organizational spectrum. They tend to struggle against highly-structured offenses like San Antonio, but they also struggle against highly-chaotic offenses like Denver. Denver plays at the 2nd-highest pace in the league, so if they can push the middle-of-the-pack Clippers (15th in pace factor) out of their comfort level, it could be a long night.
The Nuggets are also one of the few teams in the league where the Clipper bench doesn’t provide an inherent advantage. When the Clippers play, for example, the Lakers, they have Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes going up against garbage like Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, and Antawn Jamison. Against Denver, that advantage is neutralized by guys like Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, and JaVale McGee, three of the most productive bench players in the league (McGee still ranks in the top-20 in PER among players with at least 800 minutes).
Lastly, the Nuggets should capitalize on LA’s poor wing defense (our own Andrew Han has dubbed this the Charlie Widdoes corollary, hat tip to the CB alum). Caron Butler doesn’t match up particularly well with any of Denver’s perimeter players, and Denver is fond of going small with Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler at power forward – either of them should be able to take advantage of Blake Griffin in space. They even have recently channeled Don Nelson, throwing out a lineup of Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler at center. The sample sizes are miniscule and nowhere near reliable enough to draw conclusions, but just the fact that they’re running that lineup should pump sheer terror through DeAndre Jordan’s veins.