Los Angeles Clippers (18-13) @ Washington Wizards (14-14)
4:00 p.m. PST
December 28, 2015
Fox Prime Ticket
1. Who suffers more from the injury of a key guy: the Wizards without Beal or the Clippers sans Griffin?
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It (@Truth_About_It): The Clippers without Griffin. Without Blake in the lineup, frontcourt scoring options not manufactured by DeAndre Jordan’s ability to jump (curated by Chris Paul) are virtually nil. The NBA can space-and-pace and small ball all it wants, but most teams still require a threat down low. The Wizards, on the other hand, can do a fair job at making up for Beal’s absence on the perimeter with amazing and unexpected things from Garrett Temple, pairing Ramon Sessions’ quick threat to drive and attack in the open court with Wall more, or using more lineups that incorporate all the lengthy wings at once (or a combination of them—Jared Dudley, Otto Porter, and Kelly Oubre). Gary Neal has also had some nice moments this season, but has been nursing some injuries as of late. The Wizards are 7-4 without Beal this year and they were 9-10 without Beal last season (and 4-5 sans the Big Panda in 2013-14). So they can tread water. And sure, without Beal the Wizards have a ceiling. Despite John Wall’s improvement as a scorer, this team taking the next step is dependent on Beal’s development as a one-on-one scorer and shooter. But it’s not so much ‘as goes Beal, so go the Wizards’ as it is for the deputy mayor of Lob City and the former Wizards of the West.
Brandon Tomyoy (@dingyu): Given the competitiveness of the East this season, I’m inclined to say the Wizards, but that’s also because if there was any contender that needed a deus-ex-machina occurence to shake them out of lackluster lineup configurations, it’s the Clippers. Their schedule sans Blake over the next two weeks is manageable, and the benefits that could come from insights learned through playing without their star forward could prove to be highly beneficial in the long-term. It should be mentioned that losing Chris Paul around this time two seasons ago became a turning point for Darren Collison, and also that losing Griffin a season ago opened the door for one of the best stretches of play DeAndre Jordan has ever had.
Roscoe Whalan (@RoscoeWhalan7): The Wizards’ underrated but probably sufficiently rated wing depth has made covering for the loss of Big Panda easier than a guy of Blake Griffin’s pedigree. A combination of Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal and Garrett Temple — yes you read that correctly — have not only helped the Wizards stay afloat in the absence of Beal but also right the course. The Clippers are 1-0 sans Griffin so far and managed last year with Spencer Hawes as the placeholder starter in his absence but Doc’s move to incredibly small line-ups fills this writer with a degree of dread over the next couple of weeks.
2. How big (or small) is the gap between Chris Paul and John Wall now?
Weidie: The gaps is so close that it’s only measurable via blindfold and advanced statistics.
- PER: 23.8 to 20.9, advantage Paul.
- Win Shares per 48: .212 to .106, advantage Paul.
- Box Plus-Minus: +4.8 to +3.1, advantage Paul.
- Value Over Replacement Player: 1.5 to 1.3, advantage Paul.
Chris Paul by a nose or audible screech of an appeal to an NBA referee, for now. The veteran savvy he still possesses—plus respect from the refs that affords Paul the ability to flop/cheat more than others—means, that Paul wins a playoff battle versus Wall more times than not (teammates not necessarily withstanding). But on an individual game basis, Wall is now at the point where he can control the matchup and beat Paul when he desires. I’ll point to a December 12, 2014, 104-96 victory for the Wizards over the Clippers in D.C. Paul scored 19 points to go with 6 assists and 6 turnovers that night. Wall’s countering numbers don’t exactly dazzle at first glance—10 points, 11 assists, and 3 turnovers—but it was the first time in his career he bested Paul as a point guard dictating the game. Wall also dominated the physical matchup and used his size to frustrate Paul on the defensive end. Like I said, whenever Wall feels like it.
Dingyu: It’s certainly lessened, and if one were to compare them in terms of points and assists on a per 36 minute basis, they’d look eerily identical in terms of output. Still, there’s a level of on-court savvy that Chris Paul possesses (hint: it’s the same savvy that gets under the skin of opposing players and fanbases) that John Wall lacks, and Paul is still superior in terms of controlling the ball and shooting it as well.
Whalan: It’s smaller than it is big and a lot closer than people think. The shrinking gap betwen them hasn’t just happened this season either. John Wall has been incredible for the past couple of seasons and won at least one of the match ups with CP3 last season, as Kyle mentioned. Wall’s 2014-15 season was somewhat overshadowed by Paul Pierce stealing the limelight and overall narrative of the Wizards’ season and, this season, the early struggles in the Nation’s Capital have overshadowed the fact that John Wall is the driving force behind the Wizards being .500 right now.
3. True or False: Doc pulled the pin on Jared Dudley way too early.
Weidie: True. Doc Rivers did it, and then Jason Kidd went and did it (assuming that Kidd has a fair amount of say in the decisions of Bucks GM John Hammond, which must be the case considering Kidd’s defection from Brooklyn). Rivers trading a first round pick to Milwaukee in order to trim Dudley’s salary in August 2014 was nearsighted enough. With Dudley improving upon his 3-point shooting in Milwaukee and helping that young team grow up, it couldn’t have taken Rivers long to realize that Dudley’s defense in particular could have been the difference maker in L.A.’s playoff collapse to the Rockets in the 2015 Western Conference semi-finals.
And yes, the Bucks were clearing more playing time for the youth movement by sending Dudley to D.C. in exchange for a second round pick that the Bucks will never see last summer. But, now third from the bottom in the East, bet Jason Kidd wishes he had Dudley back. Whatever, their loss is Washington’s gain in the NBA’s current leader in 3-point percentage (Dudley is shooting .487 from deep). And yes, by the way—thanks for asking—the Wizards are definitely better off with Dudley than they would’ve been with Paul Pierce this season. Pierce hit some great, unforgettable shots, but what most forget was how bad his defense was in the second round series versus Atlanta. The same won’t happen with Dudley playing the small ball 4 this season … assuming the Wizards can keep on-trend and even make the playoffs in the East. (Bet they do.)
Dingyu: True. Verdad. 참된. 真. He’s exactly the type of 3-and-D Small Forward the team has needed the past season and change, and to this day that can be hard for many within the ranks of Clipper Nation to admit considering his arrival coincided with the loss of Eric Bledsoe. That only magnified feelings towards his play in a Clippers uniform, and I’ll always feel he got a raw deal from not only Doc, but many of the fans as well.
Whalan: For the second consecutive year, the team that let Jared go are probably wishing they didn’t: first, the Clippers, then, the Bucks. Granted, Dudley was beat up for most of the year he spent in L.A. and entered the season injured in D.C. However, there’s something about Jared — some intangible something that every team is desperate for and whatever that thing is it is quietly helping salvage the Wizards’ season.