• A lot has changed for the Los Angeles Clippers since the last meeting between these teams. They sat with a record of 8-15 after getting swept in a home-and-home series with the Wolves, facing injuries to four out of their five starters and rumors were swirling that it was time to trade what they could and truly look towards the future.

    Now the Clippers are among the hottest teams in the NBA. Since these teams last met on December 6 the Clippers have a record of 15-7, including a 12-4 mark over their last 16 games.

    Injured star Blake Griffin only recently returned to the lineup, playing in 10 games since the start of December, but he’s continued his high level of play. They’re still without two other starters and Austin Rivers recently went down along with DeAndre Jordan. Their bench lacks any sort of offensive firepower thanks to the injuries forcing guys into different roles.

    The Clippers have been an odd case in that regard. They are racking up the wins, their offensive and defensive ratings have been very good in this recent stretch, but they’re doing it with a number of rookies, no-names and role players thrust into big roles.

    Their offensive rating since Dec. 6 ranks eighth in the NBA while their defensive rating ranks sixth, and that is with Griffin, Gallinari and Rivers playing in the bottom half of minutes on the team, and Beverley playing none.

    So what have they changed? The first noticeable factor is the drastic increase in pace. They went from the bottom 20 before Dec. 6 to the fastest in the NBA since. In their quickened pace they’ve moved the ball around more, unsurprisingly, but they also managed to turn the ball over fewer times.

    Limiting the turnovers alone helps the defense get set up and perhaps the quickened pace has kept the team energized. Unheralded players like Wes Johnson, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell and Jawun Evans have been excellent defenders for this team in spurts.

    None of these guys are good offensive players though, at least individually. The offense isn’t coming from these guys. In fact the offense is only really coming from one guy at this point – Lou Williams.

    Sweet Lou has been on an absolute tear in the Clippers recent turnaround. Averaging 28.1 points per game with 5.5 assists while shooting 44.9 percent from the field on 19.2 attempts, 42.0 percent from 3-point range on 8.6 attempts and 91.6 percent from the line on 7.9 attempts per game.

    He has a usage rate of 31.4 in that span, which is seventh most in the league behind guys like James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He is the absolute focal point of the offense even with Griffin’s recent return to the lineup.

    Though between the two players there isn’t much room for other players to take shots. The interesting part about this Clippers team is that it is actually likely better off that way. The role players are content in defending at a high level, and they are inefficient offensive players anyway. This works because everyone stays in their respective roles.

    The question becomes whether this is sustainable or just a hot streak? And what happens when guys start to return? Rivers and Jordan were around when the team was floundering, perhaps they disrupt the flow of the team?

    More than likely they’ll end up cooling off when Lou Williams stops playing at an MVP level. Though for the moment that doesn’t look to be any time soon.

    Tom Thibodeau announced before the game that Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford will both miss tonight’s game with their respective injuries. The younger Wolves will once again have to step up to take down this hot Clippers team.

    Key Matchups:

    – Marcus Georges-Hunt vs. Lou Willliams

    – Taj Gibson vs. Blake Griffin

    The two main offensive threats for the Clippers are Williams and Griffin. If they are slowed down the Clips will struggle to score. Easier said than done, especially with the Wolves’ best perimeter defender out.

    Instead of Butler, Georges-Hunt will likely get the call if not at the beginning of the game then late if the game comes down to the wire. Andrew Wiggins may also get a crack at it if Georges-Hunt doesn’t start.

    As mentioned above Williams is on an absolute tear and has been among the best scorers in the NBA since December. He is able to generate points in a variety of ways. He’s an excellent shooter all around the floor, he is a strong finisher at the rim and he actively seeks contact to draw fouls where he’s a knock down shot at the line.

    He always seems to have his free throw game on point but he’s definitely a volume shooter so stopping him on the perimeter will be the difference.

    Georges-Hunt made some key plays down the stretch in the Wolves’ win over Toronto when guarding DeRozan and tonight he’ll have another opportunity to prove his worth.

    In the paint Griffin isn’t afraid to distribute the ball from the elbow, or take the ball off the dribble and score. Gibson will need to keep his feet moving and avoid fouling if possible.

    Though normally a solid shooter from the mid range, Griffin has been atrocious this year. He’s shooting just 26.7 percent from mid-range and 33.5 from 3-point range. If Griffin sets up at the elbow it would probably be best for Taj to prove he can make that.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Andrew Wiggins – SG

    Nemanja Bjelica – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Milos Teodosic – PG

    Tyrone Wallace – SG

    Wes Johnson – SF

    Blake Griffin – PF

    Willie Reed – C

    Injuries:

    Jimmy Butler (knee) – OUT

    Jamal Crawford (toe) – OUT

    Patrick Beverley (knee) – OUT

    Danilo Gallinari (glute) – OUT

    DeAndre Jordan (ankle) – OUT

    Austin Rivers (Achilles) – OUT

    C.J. Williams (ankle) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    10:30 ET/9:30 CT on Fox Sports North “plus”

Fantasy News

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    Huge episode alert!!! This week on the Pelicans’ Scoop Lyle chats with Mark Romig,  Chief Marketing Officer of New Orleans and Company (and Mercedes-Benz Superdome Announcer).  Lyle and Mark chat New Orleans tourism and the City’s Covid-19 response!

     

    SUBSCRIBE on iTunes and follow @HoopBallPels for Pelicans updates all season long!

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  • Dwight Howard
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported that Dwight Howard remains in his Atlanta-area home and the Lakers hope he will eventually join them in Orlando.

    The Lakers do not plan to replace Howard on the roster. They are being patient with Howard, but if he decides to not play in Orlando the Lakers will likely look to sign another center.

    Source: Dave McMenamin on Twitter

  • Luc Mbah a Moute
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Shams Charania reported that the Houston Rockets plan to sign Luc Mbah a Moute for the Orlando restart.

    Thabo Sefolosha announced on Wednesday that he will not participate in the Orlando restart, leaving the Rockets with a need for an additional three-and-D wing. Mbah a Moute played 61 games for the Rockets in 2017-18 and averaged 25.6 minutes per game, so he is familiar with their system. Mbah a Moute will be a low-usage player that the Rockets can plug in at the end of their rotation and will provide them more depth, which could be imperative for teams given the COVID-19 concerns surrounding this Orlando restart.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Dwight Powell
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Dwight Powell has advanced in his rehab from a torn Achilles as he has been able to do some light shooting, agility work, and has been able to do some jogging on the treadmill.

    Powell suffered a torn Achilles in January and has no chance of participating in Orlando's restart. However, it is always good news to hear a player reach a milestone in terms of their rehab. Powell may not play an NBA game until the 2021-22 season as he continues to recover from one of the toughest injuries in basketball. This is a situation that will continue to evolve over the next year or so.

    Source: Callie Caplan on Twitter

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Head coach Taylor Jenkins told the media that they are "looking good, feeling good" in regards to the health of Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee), Brandon Clarke (right quad) and Justise Winslow (back soreness).

    Jackson and Clarke missed nine and eight games respectively prior to the shutdown while Winslow has yet to play a game for the Grizzlies due to an ongoing back injury. This appears to be great news for the young team as they will be at full strength when the league does resume. Clarke and Jackson definitely have fantasy appeal as they both finished inside the top-80 on the season. Winslow has potential but he is the riskiest of the three based on a brand new situation and the back injury that has caused him to miss 53 games so far this season. It is probably best to avoid Winslow for the league resumption and re-evaluate his fantasy value prior to the 2020-21 campaign.

    Source: Michael Wallace on Twitter

  • Thomas Bryant
    C, Washington Wizards

    Wizards center Thomas Bryant told the media that he is "100 percent healed" from a stress fracture in his foot and is doing everything on the basketball court ahead of the NBA resumption in Orlando.

    Bryant struggled to stay healthy prior to the league suspension as he played in 38 out of 64 games while the team also had him on a strict minutes limit for several of the contests that he was able to play. He is an intriguing fantasy option for the NBA restart but his recent injury history should be considered at draft time.

    Source: Fred Katz on Twitter

  • Caleb Swanigan
    PF, Portland Trail Blazers

    Blazers forward, Caleb Swanigan, has opted out of the resumption of the NBA season in Orlando.

    Swanigan averaged 13.3 mpg for the Blazers across 20 contests and is off the radar from a fantasy perspective. He will join Trevor Ariza who will also be sitting out the NBA restart. There was very little likelihood that Swanigan would have been part of the rotation in Orlando with Jusuf Nurkić and Zach Collins returning from injury.

    Source: NBC Sports Northwest

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Thabo Sefolosha will not participate in Orlando when the league resumes.

    Sefolosha was a deep rotation piece for the Rockets as he only eclipsed the 20 minute mark once this season. There isn't much of a fantasy impact here as Sefolosha played in just two of the team's final nine games.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jusuf Nurkic
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    In regards to the health of Jusuf Nurkić and Zach Collins, head coach Terry Stotts said that "they both look great" and will be available for the restart of the NBA season in Orlando.

    Nurkić was close to returning when the league was suspended while Collins was further away from playing basketball in March. However, the additional three months allowed Collins to recover as he has no limitations heading into the restart in Orlando. It is likely that they will find themselves in the starting unit while Nurkić is the more proven player in terms of fantasy production.

    Source: Sean Highkin on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings training staff believes that Marvin Bagley (left foot sprain) will be available for game action shortly.

    Bagley hasn't appeared in a game since January. While Bagley would likely have a bench role, his return may cut into the playing time of teammates like Harrison Barnes and Harry Giles.

    Source: Jason Jones on Twitter