It’s obvious Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers are concerned with one thing and one thing only. After the NBA shut down for four months players should be well rested for the remaining games leading up to the playoffs. On Saturday Rivers rested Kawhi Leonard in a win over Portland. Playing the next day it was time for Paul George to get a rest. Now the Clippers have a few days off before tangling with the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday in a key battle for positioning in the Western Conference.
The Clippers enter the final week of bubble ball one-game ahead of the Nuggets for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn dropped them to 3-3 since the restart. Denver is one of the highest scoring teams since the restart averaging over 121 points per game. They held off Utah in double overtime on Saturday improving to 3-2 inside the bubble. The teams split a pair of games before the shutdown with each winning on its home floor.
Wednesday’s game will air live on ESPN with tip off at 9 p.m. ET inside the Florida bubble. BookMaker.eu will have betting options for every game on the NBA schedule.
Head to Head
The home team has won and covered the last five games in the series so this promises to be something a tad different. For bookkeeping purposes the Nuggets are the ‘home’ team, but technically it’s everybody’s home game since they’re all sequestered in the bubble. When the teams first met in January the Nuggets got 20 points and 15 rebounds from Nikola Jokic and withstood a late Clippers rally to post a 114-104 home win covering the 1-point spread. Six other players reached double figures. Playing without George, the Clippers got 30 points from Leonard, 26 from Lou Williams and 25 from Montrezl Harrell, but shot just 24.2 percent from distance. Playing with a full roster in the next meeting the Clippers overmatched Denver, 132-103. In a complete reversal from the first game the Clippers had nine players score at least seven points and hit 46.2 percent of their threes.
Los Angeles Clippers
Rivers said George and Leonard will play before the playoffs. With only two seeding games remaining and a chance to lock down the No. 2 seed we’ll probably see them on Wednesday. With a few days off in between games the Clips are hoping to have a roster close to full strength for the final push. However, we won’t see super sub Harrell, who remains away from the team, and Patrick Beverley is questionable with a lingering calf injury.
The Clippers had a two day break between games last week and it didn’t go so well. They lost 117-115 to Phoenix, falling to 5-6 SU this season in games with two days of rest. Playing shorthanded against the Blazers on Saturday, the Clippers beat Portland 122-117. Leonard didn’t dress and George was on the bench most of the fourth quarter. Rodney McGruder hit a three-pointer with 26.5 seconds to put the Clips ahead.
“We still feel we should win regardless of who’s in the game. We have a high expectation. I think we showed it, what we’re capable of, not having all our guys on the floor at one time,” said George, who finished with 21 points.
The Nuggets wouldn’t be in the position they are without Jokic, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. He had a monster game against Utah on Saturday in the bubble’s first double overtime contest. Jokic dropped 30 points – including the game-tying bucket at the end of the first OT that had to be reviewed when the clock didn’t start – grabbed 11 rebounds and dished seven assists in 42 minutes. He had only two points in the first half.
The return of Jamal Murray certainly helped Denver’s offense and gives them a chance of moving up in the standings. In his first game inside the bubble, Murray had 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, just missing a triple-double. Not bad for his first game since March 11. He tied the game at 123 then dropped a go-ahead three-pointer.
“When you have Jamal and Nikola playing with each other and off each other and for each other, that’s difficult duo to guard,” coach Michael Malone said. The Nuggets are averaging 121.4 points inside the bubble, more than 10 points per game above their season average. All five contests have cashed the OVER.
Clippers vs. Nuggets Prediction
In terms of seeding in the conference plenty is at stake. And considering this game is on a neutral court it should be much closer than the first two encounters. The Clips will have additional rest allowing PG13 and Kawhi to play, and we saw what happened when they took the court together against the Nuggets earlier this season. Look for the Clippers to bounce back after a loss to the Nets over the weekend to wrap up the second seed in the West in a high scoring affair.
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