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Game Preview: What to Watch For in the Nuggets Game at the L.A. Clippers
Sometimes, quirks in the NBA schedule put teams in situations that they might have avoided at least once. The Nuggets are living that out right now.
They are in Los Angeles on Wednesday for their first look at the Clippers. This is one of the last teams in the NBA the Nuggets have yet to play. And they didn’t get to face them when the Clippers struggled out of the gate early this season.
Instead, the Nuggets are catching the Clippers for the first time at the most challenging time to face them all season long.
The Clippers have the second-best record in January at 6-2 this month. They’ve won five straight games. They have the NBA’s hottest player in guard Lou Williams, who is averaging 32.1 points this month. As a team – full of players fans are still getting to know – the Clippers are averaging 116 points per game, shooting 49 percent from the field, 39.4 percent from the 3-point line and 24.8 assists. All of those are in the top five of the league in January, except for the 3-point percentage, which is sixth.
Simply put, they have been an offensive juggernaut.
How do the Nuggets slow them down? Start with these things…
Defend without fouling: It has basically been a three-month march to the free throw line for the Clippers, who rank in the top five in both free throws attempted and made. Lou Williams and Blake Griffin are right at the top of the league in fouls drawn, and, combined, they take 13 free throws a game and shoot 85 percent from the stripe. Those two put a ton of pressure on defenders, but the Nuggets have to find a way to forced missed shots without putting them on the line.
Turn them over…crash the glass…keep the pace high: While the Clippers have been solid offensively, they have continued to have some struggles on defense. In January, they are allowing 17.1 points off of their turnovers, 13.1 second chance points and 14.7 fast break points. If the Nuggets keep their energy and effort high, there are ample opportunities to score against the Clippers’ defense.
Get Jokic the ball: When center Nikola Jokic is productive, the Nuggets win percentage has soared this season. In games in which he’s scored more than 25 points, the Nuggets are 4-2. When he grabs 13 or more rebounds, the Nuggets are 8-1. When he has a double-double, the Nuggets are 12-3. The Nuggets have gone back to featuring him more of late. History shows that has been a clear path to victories.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter