Sunday, February 9, 2014, 9:30PM at Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Updated: February 9, 2014 – 11:42am (PST)
LOS ANGELES –– Sixers head coach Brett Brown likes to split the NBA season into thirds. The first begins, naturally, on opening night and ends around Christmas; the second lasts from Christmas until February’s All-Star Break; the final-third runs from All-Star break until the conclusion of the year.
With 51 games in the rear-view mirror, the only thing standing between the Sixers and that final segment of the season is a three-game Western Conference road trip. Sunday, the Sixers open that trip with a game against the Clippers at Staples Center.
Matchup To Watch
Center: Spencer Hawes vs. DeAndre Jordan
Both Spencer Hawes and DeAndre Jordan are having career seasons, but the contrast between the ways in which the two impact the game is striking.
One of the league’s most skilled passing big men, Hawes is averaging 3.4 assists per game. That number is good enough to put him in a three-way tie with Pau and Marc Gasol for second in the league among centers – Joakim Noah leads with 4.2 per game. He’s also an impressive spot-up shooter from beyond the arc, leading the Sixers in three-point attempts (191) and makes (79); he’s already made more threes this season than any full-time center ever has in a season.
Hawes is averaging career highs in points (13.6), rebounds (8.7), and assists (3.4) per game, as well as three-point field-goal percentage (41.4%). He’s notched double-doubles in each of his last two games, averaging 14.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists over that stretch. With 31 games left this season, he’s already just one double-double shy of matching his total from last year (19).
When DeAndre Jordan, a former second-round pick (2008), was signed by the Clippers to a four-year extension reportedly worth north of $40 million in 2011, many around the league were left scratching their heads. After all, his career averages of 5.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in just under 20 minutes per game didn’t exactly jump off the page. Three seasons later, though, it’s a move nobody questions.
Jordan, who stands 6’11” and possesses a standing reach (9’5.5”) larger than that of Shaquille O’Neal, has become one of the game’s most imposing post players. He’s leading the league in rebounds (14.0 RPG), almost doubling the 7.2 he averaged just last season. He’s also leading the league in field-goal percentage, converting on a jaw-dropping 65.3% of his shot attempts; he’s averaging a career-best 10.0 points per game. Defensively, he’s improved under the guidance of former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, seeing steal and block totals hit career-best marks and his defensive rating drop below 100 for the first time in his career. He’s third in the league in minutes played (1,907) after logging just under 25 minutes per game last year, a testament to the trust Rivers has in him.
It’s not hard to see why Jordan is such an efficient shooter. With the majority of his floor impact coming on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass, he’s happy play the role of opportunist offensively, converting almost exclusively right at the rim and primarily off of fastbreak opportunities, backdoor cuts, and pick-and-rolls. To illustrate the offensive differences between Hawes and Jordan, just take a look at their shot charts this season:
Scouting the Clippers
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told reporters Saturday that injured point guard Chris Paul would return to his starting lineup after missing the team’s last 18 games with a separated right shoulder. In Paul’s place, Darren Collison had filled in admirably, averaging 13.3 (47.4 FG%, 43.1 3P%, 89.5 FT%) and 6.5 assists as a starter. He’ll return to a reserve role.
The Blake Show
Simply put, Blake Griffin has been unstoppable over his last three games. During that stretch, he’s topped 35 points three straight times, becoming the first Clipper to do so since World B. Free (currently a team ambassador with the Sixers) in 1979. He’s averaging 38.3 points per game during the streak, converting on 57.5% of his 24.3 shot attempts per game and getting to the free-throw line 15.3 times a night. When the Sixers and Clippers met in Philadelphia on December 9, Griffin contributed 26 points (9/14 FG) to a 94-83 L.A. victory.
The Clippers are 21-4 (84.0 W%) at Staples Center this season, the third-best road winning percentage in the league behind Indiana (92.3 W%) and Oklahoma City (88.0 W%). Those four losses came against Memphis, Indiana, Phoenix, and Miami, all of whom boast records over .500.
Update: Arnett Moultrie Available
Following a morning shoot-around session at Santa Monica High School in Los Angeles, Coach Brown provided an update on the status of big man Arnett Moultrie, who was recently assigned to the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League. Moultrie had not played an NBA game since April of last year due to a left ankle injury that required surgery on the eve of the 2013-14 season.
"He'll come in and he'll play right off the bat," Brown said when asked whether or not he would try to ease the 2012 first-round pick back into action. "We have three bigs, and he'll [now] be the fourth.
"I applaud him for going down [to the D-League] and handling the opportunity with class. He put in the time getting his fitness at the level that is our standard, and I think that he held his head high down there. We welcome him back and we look forward to having him back."Tale of the Tape
|Category||Sixers (15-36)||Clippers (35-18)|
|PPG||Evan Turner – 17.8||Blake Griffin – 23.9
|RPG||Spencer Hawes – 8.7||DeAndre Jordan – 14.0|
|APG||Michael Carter-Williams – 6.6||Chris Paul – 11.2|
|SPG||Michael Carter-Williams – 2.2||Chris Paul – 2.4|
|BPG||Spencer Hawes – 1.3||DeAndre Jordan – 2.3|