Dec 14, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) prepares to dunk the ball over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Clippers won 113-97. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Clippers preview: Another chance to get over the .500 hump

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The Wizards are back to .500 after last night’s upset victory against the Golden State Warriors, so they’ll get another shot at getting over the mark tonight at 10:30 (EST) against the surging Los Angeles Clippers.

Key Match Up:

Despite missing Chris Paul, the Clippers have managed to remain competitive, winning 3 straight games against Eastern Conference opponents. They’ve gotten contributions from their reserve guards with Paul sidelined, but Blake Griffin has stepped up as their go-to player in his absence. Griffin is averaging nearly 26 points, 7 rebounds, and over 4 assists per game in the last 5 contests, while shooting an impressive 58% from the field. Griffin has put up over 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Wizards virtually ever time they matched up, and they won’t have much of a shot at winning the game unless he’s kept at bay.

Nene did a terrific job defensively against David Lee last night, but Griffin’s explosiveness makes him an entirely different player to guard. They can’t allow Griffin to get going underneath the basket, especially since Nene will inevitably pick up a few fouls while guarding him. Griffin’s jump shot has improved since he entered the league, but I’m sure the Wizards would live with any perimeter shots he makes. If he gets it going in the post, his ability to pass the ball as a big opens the floor for players like Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick, and Jamal Crawford, making the Clippers almost impossible to stop. Without Paul in the lineup, the majority of the Clippers’ offense is going to go through Griffin and his versatility makes him an extremely tough cover. If Nene could contain him, the Wizards should be able to compete tonight.

Notes:

  • DeAndre Jordan is leading the NBA in rebounding, with nearly 14 per game. Marcin Gortat did a pretty good job on the glass against Andrew Bogut last night and that has to carry over against Jordan. If the Clippers get a lot of second chance opportunities, the game could get ugly.
  • The Clippers have the 3rd highest offensive rating in the NBA, but aren’t too bad defensively either, as they’re also sporting the 8th highest defensive rating in the league. (NBA.COM)
  • Randy Wittman decided to play Eric Maynor last night for the first time in what feels like years, and he unsurprisingly still played like the Eric Maynor of old. He played 7 minutes, missed a bad 3-point shot and a patented floater. Needless to say, I think Garrett Temple will remain the primary backup point guard, for better or worse.
  • Speaking of backup guards, Jamal Crawford has averaged over 25 points per game in the last 5 games, including a 37 point performance against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

Prediction:

I’ve learned that it’s impossible to predict the outcome of Wizards games this season, given how they’ve been so inconsistent every single game. They’ve been better on the road than they have at home, but they’ve failed to get over the .500 hump six times this season, and I wouldn’t bet on them to get over it tonight.

Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are capable of winning games just by crashing the glass, and I’m not sure I have enough faith in Nene and Marcin Gortat, especially since they’re so outmatched athletically. Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, and J.J. Redick have all stepped up in Chris Paul’s absence, and the Clippers have lost just 3 games in the Staples Center this season.

John Wall and Bradley Beal have to continue playing aggressive defense like they did last night, while Nene and Gortat have to make the opposing bigs work on the defensive glass. I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington comes away with a victory, but I don’t expect them to. At this point, you just really don’t know which Wizards team is going to show up. They’ve dropped games to the lowly Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics, but beaten the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. Let’s hope they finally get over the .500 hump tonight.

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Tags: Blake Griffin Deandre Jordan John Wall Nba Preview Nene Washington Wizards Wizards At Clippers Wizards Clippers

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