Clippers vs. New Orleans - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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1-13

11-1
Staples Center
November 22nd, 2010, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Chris Paul
 Eric Gordon SG Marco Belinelli
Al-Farouq Aminu
SF Trevor Ariza
Blake Griffin
PF David West
DeAndre Jordan
C Emeka Okafor

 

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have the worst record in the NBA at 1-13. The Hornets are tied for the best record in the NBA in 11-1. So yeah, this should be a lot of fun. Actually, despite the almost complete absence of victories, the Clippers have indeed at least been fun for the most part this season. If they keep this up, it won't be long before they become the second favorite team of a lot of NBA fans. Think about it - if you're a fan of any other NBA team, who do you want to see your guys play? Against the Clippers, you're almost guaranteed a win, your team is going to shoot a season high percentage, make at least 10 threes, and look basically unstoppable on offense. And on top of all that, you're likely to see some unbelievable highlight reel dunks from Blake Griffin. Griffin scored a career high and Clipper rookie record 44 in Saturday's loss to the Knicks, and uncorked three unforgettable dunks in the process. When does this all start translating into wins? Hard to say. The Clippers have lost nine straight, including five in a row against teams with losing records, so facing the 11-1 Hornets is a tall order. Baron Davis and Chris Kaman have been missing for awhile now, and the Clippers haven't won since they've been gone, and are not very likely too. The youngsters filling in have looked much better than expected for the most part, and have played pretty well at times - but they make a lot of mistakes and have no idea how to close games, and the biggest problem is that they can't stop anyone.

The Antagonist:

The Hornets have got to be the biggest surprise of the young NBA season. It was certainly obvious that their struggles last year were directly related to Chris Paul's injury plagued season, so it stands to reason that a healthy Paul would make them a much better team in and of itself. But most people had them fighting for a lower playoff seed, not leading the NBA with 11 wins. Of course, it may not last. Even new coach Monty Williams admitted "Looking at our record, it might be fools' gold" after the team struggled to an ugly win in Sacramento last night. Paul and David West are the stars on this team, but they're getting contributions from guys like Marco Belinelli and Willie Green as well. Mostly they're winning with defense right now, and have the third best defensive efficiency rating in the league. 

The Subplots

  • First meeting. In the game in New Orleans earlier this month, the Clippers played without Eric Gordon, who'd been hurt in Utah a couple of days earlier. Then, midway through the first quarter, Chris Kaman sprained his ankle and had to leave the court. Without Gordon, Kaman and Baron Davis, the Clippers had no chance. The fact that Blake Griffin struggled just compounded the situation. Willie Green and Jerryd Bayless (since departed, see below) played big down the stretch and the Hornets didn't even have to play Chris Paul in the fourth quarter. So that can be an intermediate goal - stay close enough to force Paul to play in the final quarter.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu. The only Clipper to play well in New Orleans was rookie Al-Farouq Aminu, who had his career high of 20 points in that game. Coach Vinny Del Negro re-inserted Ryan Gomes into the starting lineup Saturday against the Knicks after Aminu had started four straight before that. Whether that was a one off based on matchups, or a longer term decision is to be determined. Opposite Trevor Ariza at small forward for the Hornets, I'd think that Aminu would be a good fit. He had a big game when these teams met before - but he only played 6 minutes on Saturday, so it's hard to predict what will happen.
  • Okafor. One guy who has come back to earth is Emeka Okafor. He had a 12 for 13 night a couple of games before the first meeting with the Clippers. Last night in Sacramento, he was 3 for 14. That performance alone dropped him from 60% shooting (3rd in the league) to 54% shooting (12th in the league).
  • Second night of a back to back. The Hornets are on the second night of a back to back. The fact that they stunk in Sacramento last night could be good or bad. Maybe they're come back to earth and are beatable again. On the other hand, it's highly unlikely that they're going to shoot 32% two nights in a row, so maybe they're going to come into Staples resolved to erase the memory of their very poor performance in Sacramento.
  • Losing streak. The longest team vs. team losing streak in the NBA is the Clippers vs. the Spurs, which stands at 18. The second longest is the Clippers vs. the Hornets, which is up to 14 after the loss two weeks ago. Of the two, the Hornets streak seems the less likely, given that New Orleans hasn't exactly been unbeatable during the last four years. You could say it has everything to do with Chris Paul, but then again they beat the Clippers without Chris Paul last season, so it seems to go beyond that.
  • New Hornets. The Hornets just completed a pretty big early season trade. They sent Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless to Toronto for Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks (who knew Banks was even still in the league). Stojakovic was done as a player, but it seems like maybe he was more valuable than this as a trade chip, with a big expiring contract. Bayless had arrived from Portland less than a month ago, and New Orleans gave up a first round pick to get him, so they ended up giving up that pick and Peja's expiring deal for Jack and Andersen. Jack is close pals with Chris Paul, and it's widely assumed that keeping Paul happy in New Orleans was a major motivation for this deal, but don't underestimate Andersen, who can play the game. Fun fact about this trade - it's the second time in a little over two years that Jack and Bayless have been traded for each other. Jack and Andersen (and Banks, for what that's worth) were not with New Orleans in Sacramento last night, but are expected to join the team for tonight's game.
  • Griffin.  Which Griffin will we see tonight? The 44 point 15 rebound monster from the Knicks game, or the 10 point, 6 rebound rookie from the first meeting with the Hornets? Early foul trouble in that one limited his minutes and effectiveness, so let's hope he avoids those early fouls tonight.
  • Superstar for one game: Jason Smith. Just a hunch. 
  • Famous Quotation: 

    A red-hot needle
    hangs out of him, he steers by it
    as if it were a rudder....

    Anne Sexton, Hornet
  • Get the Hornets perspective at the Hive.
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