The Clippers enter the final week of their exhibition schedule with three games in four nights, beginning Monday at Staples Center when the Golden State Warriors visit Los Angeles.
They are coming off an eight-point loss in Utah two days earlier where five preseason rotation players, including starters Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, and Willie Green, did not play. Prior to the game with the Jazz, Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said his decision to rest players had nothing to do with the upcoming slate.
“That’s going to be like the regular season,” Del Negro said of the team’s matchups with Golden State, the Lakers and Denver this week. “It’s an opportunity for guys who had some bruises and had some surgeries and whatever to take advantage of the schedule right now.”
The Warriors enter the game with a 5-1 preseason record, including a 101-97 win Friday at Portland. The Clippers are 2-3 and are playing just their second game at Staples Center since opening the preseason in Las Vegas on Oct. 6.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
The Lineup and Rotation. Del Negro said at the beginning of camp that once the preseason started wrapping up he would begin to set a foundation for the team’s opening day lineup and rotation. After five players expected to be heavily involved in the regular season sat out Saturday, it will be worth watching to see if Monday is when minutes begin to get extended and rotations from the Clippers’ deep bench unit begin to set in.
If not, expect to see Del Negro continue tinkering with different reserve groups. On Saturday, Paul said he “loved” playing with Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes. The Warriors are a bit undersized up front, particularly without Andrew Bogut (ankle), so it may be another opportunity for the Clippers to take a look at their “small-ball” lineup.
Defending the 3-point Line. The Clippers have struggled at times this preseason to cover the 3-point arc, including Saturday when Utah went 8-for-15 from distance against a Clippers defense that mixed in a bit of zone. It has been a point of emphasis throughout camp, but with seven new faces on the roster, defensive communication is still a work in progress.
Golden State is fourth in the NBA in the preseason from 3-point range, led by second-year guard Klay Thompson, who is shooting 48.5% (16-for-33).
Harrison Barnes. The former top recruit from Ames, Iowa and somewhat underwhelming star at the University of North Carolina will make his first of three visits this year to Los Angeles to face the Clippers. He’s appeared in all six of Golden State’s preseason games, including four starts, and while shooting 48.9% and 38.9% from 3-point range, he’s only managed 9.7 points per game. Since scoring 20 points on Oct. 11 versus Maccabi Haifa, Harrison Barnes has failed to top double-digits in any of his next three outings.
As a 6-foot-8 wing, Harrison Barnes should expect to see a heavy dose of pestering, long-armed defender and unrelated namesake Matt Barnes, who will likely represent the toughest defender Harrison Barnes has faced so far in his young career.
Bogut and Stephen Curry, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News, will not play in the Warriors’ final two exhibition games as they continue recovering from surgery to repair ankle injuries. Curry reinjured his ankle Friday against Portland and Bogut has been out since last season (he had surgery in April)… Golden State is one of eight teams Clippers forward Matt Barnes has played for in his career… Crawford, who also played one season in Golden State, is shooting 48.1% in five games, a year after going for a near career-worst 38.4% while with the Blazers… Reserve center Ryan Hollins has 12 of the Clippers’ 42 blocked shots.