The key match-ups: Sydney Kings v Los Angeles Clippers

After some shaky performances this preseason, the Sydney Kings will need to find their groove when they face the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. The game will be held at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu and will be the King’s only game in the NBLxNBA series before their first NBL game against Adelaide on October 13.

From a pure talent perspective, Sydney has a great chance of walking away with a win against the Clippers. The Clippers have lost almost all their box office talent in trades and free agency and are in the early stages of a restructuring process. However following their high budget rebuild in the off season, Sydney has struggled to find their groove so far in the preseason. A good performance on Monday, if not a win, will do a lot to steady the Kings.

Although in the early stages of an overhaul of their own, the Clippers still have some dangerous weapons on their current roster, and will be looking to prove a point against the Kings.

Here are five key match-ups for the Sydney Kings’ clash with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Beverly vs. Randle

Patrick Beverly is one of the NBA’s best defensive point guards, and has a well-earned reputation for being physical with his opponents, sometimes pushing the boundaries of good sportsmanship. For the smaller Jerome Randle, Beverly will be an uphill struggle, and will truly test his shot creating ability.

Randle has incredible ball handling skills and can create space for himself with a variety of dribble moves. The 2017 NBL MVP has lightning speed that he uses to get to basket almost at will, and has the strength and toughness to absorb the punishment Beverly is likely to dish out on the way to the rim. That’s assuming Randle can get past him.

The Los Angeles guard plays with an enormous chip on his shoulder. His never back down attitude has awarded him two selections in the NBA All-Defensive Teams, First Team in 2017 and Second Team in 2014.

Beverly is an expert at sustaining pressure on primary ball handlers and cutting off angles. Ball security will need to be a point of emphasis for Randle when running the Sydney offence.

Last season Randle was sometimes slow to get going. The Kings can’t afford that from him on Monday. If Beverly is able to get his clamps into him early and gain defensive momentum, it will be a tough night for Sydney’s star guard.

The small Sydney guard will need to be aggressive from the outset and keep Beverly working hard for four quarters. He may receive a few bruises by the end of the night, but in order for the Kings to come out top a few bumps may be necessary.

Bradley vs. Lisch

Like his back court mate Beverly, Avery Bradley is a two-time NBA All-Defensive player, getting First Team in 2016 and Second Team in 2013. For Lisch, who is a big source of the King’s points when healthy, Bradley will be a great warm-up for the NBL season.

Similar to Beverly, Bradley is one of the best in the NBA at cramping ball handlers and forcing the ball out of their hands. With his unrelenting pressure Bradley makes his opponent backpedal and turn their body to protect the ball, thereby reducing their vision and effectiveness when scoring or passing the ball.

When Lisch is acting as the main ball handler and offensive orchestrator, he will need to be careful not to over dribble the ball, as that will to play into Bradley’s hands, quite literally. With his long arms Bradley is a constant threat to strip the ball away

Lisch is great at breaking down his defender in one-on-one situations and putting them on the back foot. He will often back up slightly to give himself the option to either drive, or pull up for the jump shot. With his tremendous ability to cut off driving lanes, Bradley will certainly put this ability to the test.

While defence is the foundation of Bradley’s game, he is no slouch on offence and is more than capable of putting up 20 points on any given night. He can spot up as a dependable three-point shooter, and is capable of creating opportunities for himself off the dribble. His ability to score will compel Lisch to work hard on both ends.

Back court bonus: Lou Williams

Usually these lists stick to the starting five of each team, but Lou Williams presents a notable exception. Williams is the current reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, an award he has received twice.

Although he came off the bench for 60 of his 79 games last season, Williams finished the year as the Clippers’ top scorer, averaging 22.6 points. The lightly built guard is the offensive engine for the Clippers and gives them instant points when he is subbed in.

Williams is great at mixing up his pace, lulling an opponent to sleep and then rapidly accelerating to blow by his defender. In spite of his smaller frame he is an accomplished finisher close to the basket. With an accurate three point shot, Williams likes to mix up the pick and roll by popping out beyond the arc to hit the long ball.

Given Kevin Lisch’s skill at defending, he is most likely to get tasked with guarding Williams when he checks into the game. Tom Wilson and Kyle Adnam will also need to be alert to Williams’ tendencies when it’s their turn to bear the defensive load.

Gallinari vs. Newley

Standing at 208cm Danilo Gallinari isn’t the most athletic or versatile player to occupy the small forward position. However, with his silky smooth skills, he gives the Clippers both size and scoring.

Gallinari is not the type of player who beats opponents with his ability to blow by with breakneck speed, or jump over them with freakish leaping ability. Instead, he inflicts his damage with his great footwork, positioning and shooting ability.

Newley will certainly have to work hard to overcome the size advantage in the Italians’ favour, particularly in the post, where he loves to use the fade-away over the top of shorter players. If Newley can deny entry passes into the post, and force Gallinari off his spots, it will do a lot to limit his impact in that area.

Much like Williams, he likes to fade to the three-point line in pick and roll situation, so Newley will need be quick going over screens, and will need to avoid going under them as much as possible. The former Italian League MVP doesn’t need a big opening to get his shot off.

Newley is a highly capable scorer, and should take the all opportunities against the sometimes defensively lacklustre Gallinari.

As well as being a great shooter, Newley is also first-class at exploiting poorly guarded or open driving lines. He is likely to have success in this area, as Gallinari is not the quickest lateral mover and can sometimes lose his focus on defence.

Harris vs. Wear

Tobias Harris is a typical modern stretch forward whose number one goal is to score; plain and simple. With the ball in his hands Harris is a threat to score at almost any spot on the court.

When off the ball Harris is rarely still, forcing the defence to keep track of his movements as he probes for openings. At 208cm David Wear is quite mobile, and should be able to keep up with Harris, but will need to be aware of his assignments’ quick first step.

When guarded by smaller players Harris will often look to post them up. Wear’s size should make that area of his game more difficult. However, if Harris gets the mismatch, look for him to take the ball down low.

Harris is a capable rebounder and likes to push the ball in transition following a rebound, often looking to go coast to coast himself. Wear will need to be ready to run when the Clippers rebound and secure the ball shots, and try and stay in front of the galloping Los Angeles forward.

Defensively, Harris is one of the weak links in the Clipper’s starting lineup. He struggles defending the perimeter and can be abused in the paint. Last season, Harris allowed more points in the paint per game than any other Clipper, and the third most second chance points per game.

As a King, Wear is yet to show off the offensive prowess he displayed with Reno Bighorns in the G League. Given his match up, Sydney will need him to really come alive with his scoring and give them some quality offensive minutes.

Gortat vs. Bogut

The Polish Hammer; you don’t earn a nickname like that by being a soft touch. Marcin Gortat is a big strong body down in the paint, and is one of the smartest big men in the league. The clash of Andrew Bogut and Gortat will be an interesting confrontation, with both men known for their physical style of play.

With a reliable turnaround hook shot and push shot, Gortat isn’t just dependent on his teammates setting him up. When he gets deep position under the basket, the Polish Hammer is a dependable finisher. Bogut’s strength will be a big factor defending the big Pole and stopping him from getting deep post position.

During his time with the Wizards he also showed off his skill as the rolling man in the pick and roll. Gortat likes to stay mobile rather than just patrol the paint, so Bogut will need to be aware of his movements to combat a quick cut to the basket.

At seven feet tall Bogut is a fantastic rim protector, and will make Gortat think twice when he rolls to the rim. The Australian big man is great at getting himself in good defensive positions, and has the reach to be able to make up for lost ground.

Much like his adversary, Bogut is capable of scoring with the light touch, but is more than willing to bring down the sledgehammer to dunk over defenders. From an offensive perspective, he should give Gortat plenty to think about.

The Melbourne born big man often looks to gain a physical and psychological edge over his opponent, so look for the Kings to get him the ball early to establish himself.

Oliver Kay

Written by

Freelance sport journalist with a love for all things basketball.

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