Opening Statements: Wizards vs Clippers, Game 29 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Clippers, Game 29

Updated: December 28, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Los Angeles Clippers - Feb. 4, 2013

There comes a time in every man, woman, and child’s life in which he/she must ask the important, likely unanswerable questions.

What is the meaning of life? How big is the universe? Should we really give peace a chance? What would Jesus do? How many championships would the Wizards win with a fully healthy core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple, Jarell Eddie, and Otto Porter? (1)

After much pondering, I have settled on the following solutions to the above questions. But keep in mind, these are only my thoughts. You probably have similar answers, but perhaps slightly different.

To watch SWEPT go 820-0 with 10 championships for the next decade; as big as SWEPT wants it to be; if SWEPT decides it’s tired of wreaking havoc on helpless NBA teams, sure; probably just watch Wizards games; as many are played until Adam Silver decides the team is too good to exist any longer and is forced to break it up for “basketball reasons.”

Perhaps this is hyperbole, but do we know for sure that Garrett Temple and Jarell Eddie aren’t the next Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen? The next Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? The next John Stockton and Karl Malone? I’m just saying, these are the questions we need to be asking. As Jordan Crawford was fond of saying about his mission to be better than MJ: “Why not?”

The Wizards host the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night in a game that will be without much of its luster due to the absences of Bradley Beal and Blake Griffin, among others (Nene, Drew Gooden, Alan Anderson, perhaps Austin Rivers), but between the John Wall-Chris Paul duel, the return of Paul Pierce to the Phone Booth, the Wizards’ four-game win streak, and the Temple-Eddie Experience (or Teddie Ex, as I call it as of right now), there should be plenty of excitement to go around.

Washington has been remarkably inept against the Clippers in recent history. Since Paul came to L.A. in 2011, the Clips have won at least 60 percent of their games each year—before that, however, they were, y’know, the Clippers. In the four seasons before CP3’s arrival, the Clippers went a combined 103-225 (.314), but even at the time they acquired Paul, they had won five straight against the Wizards. Since the CP3 deal, Washington has gone 2-6 against the Clippers, with both wins coming at the Verizon Center. The most recent win came on Dec. 12, 2014, thanks to 29 points from Beal and 11 dimes from Wall(2). In the win before that (Feb. 4, 2013), Martell Webster led the Wizards with 21 points and Emeka Okafor grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds.

Dating back to 2005, the Wizards have won just six of their past 20 meetings with the Clippers, and two of their last 13.

As with any game against the Clippers, especially with Griffin out, the key is Paul. The president of the NBA Players’ Association has career averages of 18.6 points, 9.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game, but those numbers jump up to 20.1, 10.4, and 5.1 against the Wizards. Washington is the only franchise Paul averages 20-10-5 against. His last game against the Wizards might have been his best yet, as he put up a casual 30-15-6 line to go with just one turnover. (Another fun tidbit from that game: One team’s center grabbed 23 rebounds; the other team’s center was outrebounded by his point guard. I’ll leave the figuring up to you.)

However—not to take anything away from Paul’s excellence—but having Griffin (insert highlight here) catch and throw down any pass within seven feet of the hoop certainly pads the assist numbers some. Sure, DeAndre Jordan has similar athletic ability, but it’s roughly half as difficult to guard one athletic demigod flying through the air at breakneck speed for alley-oop receptions as it is to guard two.

This iteration of Wiz-Clips will have a different feel than the most recent few, and only partly due to the aforementioned absences. The Wizards’ noble-ish attempt at a small-ball lineup will present L.A. with a few looks it hasn’t seen (3) in previous trips to the nation’s capital, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Washington is riding the high of a win streak while Los Angeles is riding the bummer train of losing a top player for a couple weeks.

An interesting side story will be the crowd turnout, and then once the game actually gets going, where the support falls. The Verizon Center has seemingly played host to home games for teams from San Antonio and Los Angeles already this season, and with another large-market, highly successful team coming into town, the table is set for a mixed crowd at best. On the other hand, the nationwide public perception of the Clippers has shifted over the past few years from LOLClippers to ZOMG LOB CITY to Shut Up You Whiny Mutherfuckers, so there could be some animosity floated toward the court. (Griffin has been treated like a villain in Washington before, not unjustly.) But back to that first hand, the return of Pierce should draw some heartwarming feels—I’ll be at the game and I know I’ll be rooting for him to knock down some retro jumpers, albeit in a blowout loss so convincing that Pierce rips off his Clippers apparel to don a Wizards uni for the rest of the season (miss you, Paul).

Here to preview the contest is Brandon Tomyoy (@dingyu) of the aptly named Clippers blog, ClipperBlog. Keep reading after the Vine…

Teams: Wizards vs Clippers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Clippers fav’d by 1.5 points

Q #1: The Wizards and Clippers will be on a somewhat level playing field when it comes to health on Monday; the Clippers just lost Blake Griffin for the immediate future while the Wizards are without Bradley Beal, among others.

Randy Wittman struggled to find cohesive lineups early on, but he seems to have now found a few rotations that can get into a rhythm. Doc Rivers recently said he was going to mix and match lineups based on the opponent in Griffin’s absence—after all, the Clippers have so many wings. Does that strategy work for you, or are you in favor of picking one lineup and giving it a few games to make it work? If so, who is your choice to replace Griffin in the starting lineup?

@dingyuThe Clippers will benefit long-term from more insight on what works and what doesn’t with this team, so I’m all for mixing and matching to draw more insights.

While there is certainly an abundance of wings on this roster, one of the major knocks on Doc Rivers this season has been his lineup choices for those wings, as well as how those minutes are dispersed. It’s clear that most of them deserve playing time, but which combinations seems to be the Rubik’s Cube that the team has yet to solve. With Griffin on the sidelines and a continual desire to spread to floor, Doc’s hand will be forced a bit in terms of who ends up playing together, if only because of his rotation patterns and when he decides to rest his starters. For instance, nearly every bench lineup that has played Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce alongside one another has posted rather negative net ratings, but if Pierce is getting starter’s minutes, it lessens the odds he’ll see the floor at the same time as Crawford. This was the case against Utah on Saturday when The Truth was called on to start at the power forward spot for the second half, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that they ended up playing one of their best halves of basketball on the road this season.

This might sound like my preference is to have Paul Pierce replace Griffin as the starter (while the latter is hurt), but certain matchups will require a need for more size down low, especially given the rebounding troubles the Clippers have had all season. These are times Josh Smith should start, and while I’ve even pondered the possibility of sliding Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the 4 and starting Wesley Johnson, it makes more sense to also consider a starting lineup that forgoes Mbah a Moute entirely and includes Smith and Johnson together. After all, replacing the offensive production of one Blake Griffin is no task that any one player on the roster can do, and this would give the Clippers one of their most potent offensive lineups.

Q #2: On a related note, Josh Smith started the first game Griffin missed. He played less than five minutes. Is Doc Rivers just trolling, was Smith just really not working out, or did it have more to do with Paul Pierce just having a great game? (He was minus-6 in his 4:55 of action.)

@dingyuDuring the postgame interview, Doc explained that he liked how Josh Smith was playing, but felt that there was a need for more spacing on the floor. J.J. Redick also mentioned after the game that it took them half the night to even figure out how to get open without Blake on the floor. Those points considered, it’s difficult for me to pin the blame on Smith for how poorly the Clippers started off in Utah. Pierce, on the other hand, led all Clippers against the Jazz with a plus-18 rating, and he hasn’t had a better game in a Clipper uniform.

Q #3: Speaking of Pierce, we miss him dearly (at times) here in D.C. He’s obviously been a shell of his former self this season, and he looks especially sluggish amongst the high-flying show in L.A., but has his game really dropped off all that much?

His numbers are grisly. His biggest asset for the Wizards, aside from late-game heroics and off-court leadership responsibilities, was knock-down 3-point shooting. He shot more than four triples per game last season (46.3 percent of his FGAs) and drained them at a .389 clip. This season, he’s attempting 3s more frequently (63.6 percent of his FGAs) but fewer in total (2.9 per game), and he’s shooting much less accurately (.286). What is the primary cause of this drop, and is it something you expect to continue throughout the season?

@dingyuI see Pierce much like a classic roadster: despite the power and ability, it just takes more time to warm up. Even the Novembers as a Net and a Wizard provided their share of underwhelming Paul Pierce performances, and with his increasing age, it’s also more than likely that he needs even more time to round into form. It’s also very likely that he just hasn’t had the consistent playing time he’s needed; that’s not to say there haven’t been opportunities, but playing in a second unit stocked with ball-dominant guards certainly hasn’t provided many quality scoring chances for him, either.

Q #4: The Clippers went out and retooled on wings in the offseason, as mentioned, adding Pierce, Smith, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In a surprising development, Mbah a Moute has started 15 games.

Stephenson has started 10, Pierce and Johnson have each started three, and Smith just started his first game on Saturday. For comparison, Austin Rivers has started five. It’s not as though Mbah a Moute is playing out of his mind or anything—he’s averaging just 2.3 points per game on .364 shooting (.432 eFG%!). I guess my question is: What, uh, what’s going on over there?

@dingyuIt’s a call that’s been made entirely for defense, and given the offensive potency of the other four starters, it’s understandable even when considering the homely appearance of Mbah a Moute’s shooting statistics. Prior to his insertion into the starting lineup, the Clippers were sitting around 24th in the league in Defensive Rating, and since his addition, they’ve climbed up to 14th. Some of this can be attributed to a lighter strength of schedule than the team had to start the season, but even in the early part of the season, he was one of the few members of the team that would consistently post a positive Net Rating in his time on the floor. Even now, he sits with the sixth best net rating on the team.

As for those shooting statistics, much of it can be contributed to Mbah a Moute’s reluctance to take the open 3, instead dribbling into traffic and leaving himself with a more difficult shot. He’s gradually appeared more comfortable in taking the open shots, but he still hesitates much more than he should. That’s not to say that his shooting numbers will blossom once he is fully comfortable with those shots, but at least then his choice as a defense-only option won’t seem as glaring.

  1. Or WBTEP. Rearranged, that’s BWEPT. “B” is a kinda similar in appearance to “S,” so it’s basically SWEPT, as in what all teams who meet them in the playoffs will be.
  2. Wall also forced Paul into six turnovers and was largely credited for shutting down the Clippers point guard. Said Doc Rivers after the game: “I thought he was into C.P. most of the game—bodied him, blocked shots. He’s a freak, athletically. I thought in the past he used it only on the offensive end. Now he’s a two-way player, and that makes him a heck of a basketball player. I’m kinda happy for him.
  3. Temple is gonna drop 50 and Eddie should be good for at least 15 3-pointers, probably.
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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.