|2009/2010 NBA Regular Season|
|December 21st, 2009, 5:30 PM|
|Prime Ticket, 980 AM
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The Clippers opened the season 0-4. After 13 games, they fell five games below .500 at 4-9. Since then, they've hovered somewhere below .500, having won 8 of their last 13, thanks in large part to a friendly schedule. Well, that schedule gets decidedly hostile starting today. Sixteen of their last 22 opponents have a losing record, and two more games came against the currently .500 Thunder. That means only four teams have had winning records. Unfortunately for them, that imbalance is going to correct itself over the rest of the season. The next five games, and eight of the next nine, are against teams over .500. If the Clippers play like they have in the first half of the last couple of games, then they could be fine. If they play like they have in the second half, they'll be annihilated. It starts off with a bang, against a team that handed the Clippers a 25 point loss in LA eight days ago, in a building where LA has never won. Of the Clippers' top six players, almost all of them are playing well right now. Marcus Camby is on a rebounding tear, averaging 17 over the last 4 games. Chris Kaman is shooting well and scoring again over the last five games, looking more like the guy who began the season. Baron Davis has averaged over 10 assists over the last four. Rasual Butler has had his strongest string of games of the season by far. Al Thornton has been playing well for awhile now, and was clutch at the end of the Philadelphia game. And although he has struggled handling the ball the last couple of games, Eric Gordon remains the Clippers' most consistent performer - even when he's a little disappointing, he's still solid on defense and efficient on offense. Beyond those six, it's anyone's guess what is going to happen. Craig Smith got his first DNP of the season on Saturday. DeAndre Jordan spent a few days on the inactive list. Sebastian Telfair has been vey quiet recently. With so little production coming from the bench, Coach has given a longer look to Mardy Collins the last few games - expect him to get minutes against the Spurs tonight as well to defend Ginobili. The top six will have to play well tonight for the Clippers to have any chance of getting their first ever win in the AT&T Center - but they'll need some help from some one else as well.
The Spurs have won five of their last six and are now in the eighth position in the Western Conference - but of course this is still not where they are accustomed to being. Expectations were higher than usual for San Antonio entering the season, with the high-profile acquisition of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess. But both have been somewhat disappointing, and the Spurs have simply not played like themselves. Their road record is poor (3-6) and their record against teams .500 or better is even worse (2-9). Of course, this game is in San Antonio and the Clippers are below .500, so neither of those facts really help LA in this one. We tend to think of the Spurs as unchanging, but in fact they have three brand new starters this season, plus rookie DaJuan Blair off the bench in the rotation, so they've had a bit of turnover and perhaps they're still getting used to each other. Of course, while the record isn't very Spurs-like so far, that didn't seem to matter 8 days ago when San Antonio destroyed the Clippers in LA. Of course, sometimes it comes down to shooting, and the Spurs couldn't miss in that game. Hopefully they won't be quite so hot in this one.
- The last game. The meeting in LA was strange. The Clippers had a 10-0 run in the final minutes of the first half to cut a 20 point deficit in half. Then they played well for stretches of the third, and looked like they'd cut further into the lead. But the Spurs reserves dominated the Clipper backups at the beginning of the fourth, and Duncan, Parker and Ginobili got the rest of the night off. It's one thing to lose to the all star Spurs - but can we please not lose to George Hill and DaJuan Blair again?
- Bonner out. At least Matt Bonner won't be around to drop threes on the Clippers. He broke his hand in the game on Saturday and will be out four weeks. Michael Finley has also been out, though I don't know a status on him.
- Clippers on the road. One thing that must be stated about the Clippers so far this season: since they don't have any home court advantage, they don't really have an away court disadvantage. The Clippers' road record of 5-6 is better than Utah's (5-7) and comparable to those of Portland (7-8), Denver (7-8) and Phoenix (8-9). They've also suffered by far their two worst defeats at home, 28 points to New Orleans and 25 to these Spurs. So there's reason to believe they can be more competitive on the road. Unfortunately, there's also reason to believe that the Spurs will play better in Texas, not to mention the fact that a little better won't help much - the Clippers are going to have to play much better to win this game.
- Ugly losing streaks. The last time the Clippers won in San Antonio was almost eight years ago, January 2002. In October of that year, the AT&T Center opened as the new home of the Spurs, and the Clippers have never won there - 13 consecutive losses. In addition to the road losing streak, the Spurs have won the last 13 overall against the Clippers. Talk about unlucky 13.
- At least the weather is better. After playing in frigid Minnesota, and then heading straight into the teeth of a blizzard in Philadelphia, the Clippers (assuming their flight got to leave) are getting back to warmer climes. The high in San Antonio today should be near 70.
The only person more self-centred than me is Carlos, he's so self-centred he doesn't even know how self-centred I am.
- Get the Spurs perspective at Pounding the Rock.