The Clippers dominated the Rockets last night, proving Charles Barkley right when he said they are the best small-ball team in the NBA. The best part about it is the Clippers were great when playing with a conventional center on the floor, let alone their small-ball closing lineup of Beverly-Williams-Leonard-Geroge-Harkless.
Ivica "Zu" Zubac got the game ball after the game, a recognition of all the hustle plays and good defense. Not that he was bad on offense, the Croatian center scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 20 minutes on the floor, shooting 6-6 from the field and 5-6 from the free-throw line. Here are two plays that can sum up the game for you.
Before the game, Charles Barkley had no doubt the Clippers would win this game and is confident the Rockets won't make it in the playoffs without a conventional big man. Small ball is physically taxing, something that undoubtedly had an effect on their two-game losing streak. After catching everyone by surprise, it's becoming more apparent that as good as the Rockets are, the Clippers and Lakers are in a tier of their own in the West. Charles Barkley believes the key to the matchup and potential playoff series isn't LeBron James, but Anthony Davis.
“That's why I say this about the Lakers and the Clippers. They can handle LeBron between Paul George and Kawhi because he has to guard them at the other end also. The key to the Lakers, if they got a chance, which I don't think they do, is Anthony Davis. Can he dominate down low? Because they [Clippers] don't have any big guy that can handle Anthony Davis.”
The Clippers won the season opener and the Christmas game, but the game on Sunday will be the best indicator which team is the best in the West. Both sides have no injury concerns, we are in the last quarter of the regular season, and it's time to start ramping your form up for the playoffs. Both teams are off on Saturday, so there is no back to the back issue as well.
LeBron's been talking AD up all season, boosting his confidence and developing tremendous chemistry with him. James is aware that he will have his hands full, knowing that PG and Kawhi can take turns guarding him, and he has to guard one of them on the other side of the court. The main concern for the Lakers is the fact they are a below-average offense the moment LeBron goes to the bench. If they want to have a chance, that needs to change.