Gameday Report: Clippers host Indiana, with big challenges on horizon
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In their final regular season matchup against an Eastern Conference opponent, the Clippers (41-35) will host Indiana (45-31) on Sunday at STAPLES Center, with LA looking to avenge a March 23 loss to the Pacers.
Here’s what to look out for in Sunday’s matchup:
Be wary of the ‘other’ guy –
When the Clippers and Pacers faced off nearly two weeks ago in Indiana, LA did what it needed to do in terms of slowing down Indiana’s top scorers.
The Clippers successfully corralled Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, holding him to 18 points but on 4-for-16 shooting. Pacers center Myles Turner also had a subpar performance, scoring just 7 points on 2-for-8 shooting.
It was Bojan Bogdanovic that caused all the problems for LA.
Bogdanovic doubled his season average, scoring 28 points on 12-for-18 shooting. It was the second most points he’s scored in a single game this season and tied for the third most points he’s scored in a game in his career.
In recent weeks, LA has struggled to slow down their opponents' second, sometimes third, options. In Milwaukee on March 21, forward Jabari Parker scored 20 points off the bench for the Bucks. In Toronto on March 25, reserve guard Fred VanVleet scored 16 points and reserve forward Pascal Siakam scored 15.
Against the Suns on Wednesday, point guard Tyler Ulis scored a season-high 23 points, and on Friday in Portland, rookie center Zach Collins scored a career-high 15 off the bench.
LA will need to keep its eye on those non-first options down the home stretch of the season, to not get burned repeatedly.
Who should LA have its eyes on? –
The Clippers have six more games in the regular season, and if they hope to make the playoffs, they will need a little bit of help from a few of the teams ahead of them.
So which team should the Clippers be looking to catch specifically?
LA has games remaining against Utah and New Orleans, the two teams that currently occupy the seventh and eighth spots, respectively, making them the most obvious choices. While the Clippers do have one game left against San Antonio, the Spurs lead LA by three games in the standings, which will be a tough hill to climb.
Utah’s final six games look like this: at Minnesota, home against the Lakers and Clippers, at the Lakers, home against Golden State, and at Portland.
Against those teams this season, the Jazz are 8-5. Utah is currently 2-1 against the Clippers, making their April 5 matchup that much more important if LA hopes to challenge for the tiebreaker between the two teams.
New Orleans’ last six games look like this: home against Oklahoma City and Memphis, at Phoenix, Golden State and the Clippers, and home against San Antonio.
Against those teams this season, the Pelicans are 9-7, including a 2-1 record against the Clippers. Once again, the April 9 matchup between these two teams could prove critical for LA’s playoff chances, with LA needing to tie the season series.
Most imperative for LA is a win on Sunday against Indiana. Without that, the playoff mountain could prove too tall to climb for the Clippers.
Sunday’s game will tip-off at 12:30 PDT.