Los Angeles Clippers (37-19) vs Denver Nuggets (22-35)
7:30 p.m. PST
February 24, 2016
Fox Prime Ticket
1. Is 2015-16 a success or a failure for the Nuggets?
Charlie Yao, Roundball Mining (@CharlieCSY): It’s a pretty resounding success. The Nuggets aren’t winning any more games than they did in the past two seasons, but the aimless wandering towards the middle has given way to a different approach towards building a team that can eventually have a higher ceiling. The Nuggets are in an early rebuilding phase, but the organization no longer seems confused and divided on how to approach that process. The culture, attitude, and quality of play on the court has been night-and-day compared to the past two seasons.
Sareen Tavidian (@sarenetavidian): Bad, frustrating and just plain ugly; one of the worst teams in the league right now and even coach Mike Malone knows it. He’s fully aware that his team is doing nothing to persevere this season with a lack of stamina and motivation. Ironically, if you were to look at their line up you would think differently. They have the players and manpower for a strong foundation, but are unfortunately lacking the organizational culture in order to succeed. The struggle is real.
Brandon Tomyoy (@dingyu): I’d lean more on the side of success. I like what Mike Malone is doing with the team, and they have done well to try and change the culture after a couple tumultuous seasons. Even with some of the recent buyouts and roster changes, it does appear they are looking to address a lot of their roster redundancy as well as build around their young core. It’s too early to talk about them from a win-loss standpoint, given they only committed fully to their rebuild this year, but the road ahead looks positive.
2. Taking on the Nuggets, any regrets on the Clippers passing on that Blake trade package?
Yao: I’m in favor of trading the farm for Blake, but both the Clippers and Nuggets don’t seem ready to drastically change course now. Both teams seem primed for potentially huge changes, but it’s not decision time for any of the assets involved… yet. More than anything, the rumors are a bad look for Blake. He’s had a big hand in taking the focus away from the basketball portion of his career. The Adventures of Blake and his Clipper bros is fun and all, but it’s becoming a distraction from his basketball playing side gig.
Tavidian: No regrets. Blake Griffin is young has a lot of growth left in him. Although the team is doing quite well without him at the moment, they would suffer in the long run. If the Clippers are looking to give up someone like Griffin they need another superstar and that was not the case in the Nuggets trade package.
Tomyoy: I’m very skeptical of that trade package ever being given any serious consideration. It would absolutely be a win for the Nuggets if they were able to swing getting a player that earlier this season was considered in the MVP conversation, and for the Clippers, it only leaves a bunch of questions on why they would settle on such little value in return — not that any trade of Griffin would bring back equal value in the first place.
3. True or False: The Clippers finish in the Top 3 of the Western Conference.
Yao: False. The West sucks, but the top two are so deeply entrenched and the margin of error for everyone else is large enough that worrying about who gets to be third isn’t worth it. OKC and the Clippers aren’t threatened by anyone else, so they just need to stay healthy and let whatever happens happen. The playoffs will be the time for the knock down drag out fights. At this point the seeding is just trivial.
Tavidian: True. I might just be a really optimistic fan, but I think they have a chance. The Clippers need to continue to up their game, all while hoping that the Thunder and Spurs lose a couple of their upcoming games. As of now, the top four teams in the Western Conference, with the exception of the Warriors, are fighting to stay high and mighty. The Clippers cannot lose focus and need to kick into overdrive as they approach the playoffs. Unfortunately, track records don’t lie and we’ve seen the Clippers scramble to stay afloat right when the going gets a little tough. However, I’m hoping they prove everyone wrong by pushing through and taking their place in the top three.
Tomyoy: False, but this was very close to being true. The soft finish to February the Clippers have, when combined with the tough stretch the Thunder play during this same span, could very well have both teams tied in the standings heading in to March. Additionally, they play each other three times in March, so with the tiebreaker up for grabs, the opportunity really is to take the third seed from Oklahoma City and not look back. At the same time, with a March schedule that features Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, and a bevy of other playoff locks, it would take a heck of a run by the Clippers to come out of the month without taking a few tough losses.