Los Angeles Clippers at Washington Wizards
4:00 p.m. PST
December 14, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
Video of the Day
You want Wizards? We’ll give you Wizards.
1. Where does the Wall-Beal combination rank among the NBA’s best backcourts?
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It, (@Truth_About_It): I’ll elevate John Wall and Bradley Beal to the NBA’s second-best backcourt after Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. While Wall currently seems to be jumping up a couple steps on the ‘next level’ staircase, Beal still has his work cut out for him, partially because he started the season with a broken wrist, partially because he’s still the 16th-youngest player in the NBA (who has played more than 50 minutes–he’s younger than Anthony Davis), and partially because he needs to refine his ability to finish at the rim. The Wiz Kids will get there, eventually, and they will supplant the Splash Brothers as the NBA’s best backcourt, mostly because I think that Wall and Beal, as a combo, are more well-rounded on both ends of the court.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Fifth. It seems like they’d be higher, but Lowry is playing out of his mind next to DeRozan in Toronto, the Suns have that feisty three-headed point guard monster (which includes Eric Bledsoe, so they’re there) and then there are the Clippers, because at this point in their careers, is Beal really that much better than Redick? Of course, the Warriors are the automatic No. 1 in this category. Wall-Beal has loads of potential, and Wall is already a top-five point guard, but let’s not confuse potential with current production for Beal, who isn’t yet a consistent ball-handler or creator.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Sixth, behind the Warriors (Curry-Thompson), Raptors (Lowry-DeRozan), Clippers (Paul-Redick), Blazers (Lillard-Matthews), and Suns (Bledsoe-Dragic). Their ranking is lower than I initially thought, and it largely stems from Bradley Beal’s subpar play since returning from his wrist injury (11.65 PER, 52.4 TS%). Wall has quietly become a top-5 point guard, and once Beal resumes his play from the second half of last season, they could jump as high as second or third.
2. Why have the Wizards gotten off to such a strong start?
Weidie: I’ll let everyone use ‘The East’ as the excuse, clearly. Why not? But I won’t knock the Wizards team I’ve known for years (sometimes as the #SoWizards) for now being able to finish games against lowly opponents, on paper. This year, not as many teams in the East are overtly trying to take to start the season, and even teams on the lower tier like Boston, Orlando, and Milwaukee, have young, scary talent and are well-coached. Don’t take any squad for granted; win and don’t look back. Plus, I’m sure the Wizards will take the soft schedule as they try to figure out rotations and grow as a unit.
Katz: Rasual Butler. Obviously. How could the answer to this be anything other than Rasual Butler? The dude was playing for the Indiana Pacers’ summer league team a couple years ago. Now, every time I tune into a ‘Zards game, he’s going for 20. Watch out, Kobe. Rasual is coming for you in the scoring race.
Buha: There are several reasons why the Wizards have gotten off to such a strong start—they play in the East, they’ve played the fifth-easiest schedule, they’ve had flukey stretches from Rasual Butler and Garrett Temple—but the two primary reasons are their fifth-ranked defense (99.2 defensive rating) and the addition of Paul Pierce, who has played just as well, if not better, than Trevor Ariza last season. But, also, they play in the East.
3. The Wizards may be in the East, but is this game a legitimate road test for the Clippers?
Weidie: Of course it is. Dallas came in saying the same thing in late November and escaped with a three-point win thanks to the three-point heroics of a hobbled Dirk Nowitzki. The Clippers don’t rebound particularly well (NBa’s 11th-lowest rebound rate), and Washington has the size to keep up with Griffin and Jordan, as well as anything Hawes wants to do. I even might give the Wizards’ bench the edge…were it not for the continued stylings of Jamal Crawford. But yet, Washington has Rasual Butler, who is 32-for-61 on 3-pointers so far this year. (How you, Matt Barnes?) The one thing that will be lacking from what will surely be a highly charged meeting: Trevor Booker. He and Flake Griffin don’t exactly get along (as continually evidenced now that Booker is with the Jazz); watching those two battle is always fun.
Katz: Yes, especially because Wall is the type of athletic point guard with which Chris Paul can struggle. Washington is a quality team, and if this game weren’t tough enough, there are a bunch of Doc Rivers connections on this squad. Former long-time player Paul Pierce. Former teammate Randy Wittman. I don’t know what that means in reference to the results to the game, but let’s pretend it’s pertinent.
Buha: Yes. The Wizards are probably the second-best team the Clippers have faced over the course of their nine-game win streak; the Clips are just 5-4 against current playoff teams, so a road win against a quality team would be nice. John Wall is a tough matchup for Chris Paul because of his size, speed and athleticism, Bradley Beal is the type of wing scorer that gives L.A. fits, and Marcin Gortat is a load inside. The Clippers should win this game, but it won’t be as easy as some of their recent wins.