Clippers at New Orleans - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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1-6
6-0
New Orleans Arena
November 9th, 2010, 5:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Eric Bledsoe
PG Chris Paul
 Rasual Butler Eric Gordon SG Marco Belinelli
Ryan Gomes
SF Trevor Ariza
Blake Griffin
PF David West
Chris Kaman C Emeka Okafor

 

The Back Story:

  • First meeting of the season.  New Orleans swept the 4 game season series last year.

The Big Picture:

The current Clippers road trip features some ongoing tormentors for the team.  The Clippers' futility versus the Hornets may not equal the prior opponent (one win in the last 42 games in Utah) or the next opponent (a league high 17 game losing streak against San Antonio) - but 13 straight losses to New Orleans is tied for the second longest team vs. team losing streak (leave it to the Clippers to be first and second in that category).  On history, and on current record, this game looks like a mismatch.  The Hornets are one of two undefeated teams left in the NBA, while the Clippers have just one win.  But for some reason I think the Clippers have a good chance in this one.  Of course, those chances will diminish to zero if Eric Gordon is unable to play.  Gordon suffered a bone bruise in his left shoulder in Saturday's double overtime loss in Utah and is considered questionable for this game.  Gordon is emerging as the Clippers go to scorer, he's leading the team in scoring at 21 points per game, and he's averaging over 24 in his last four games.  With Baron Davis and Randy Foye already shelved, the loss of Gordon would reduce the Clippers guard rotation to Eric Bledsoe, Rasual Butler and Willie Warren - don't get me wrong, Bledsoe's been terrific, but the Clippers aren't beating Chris Paul and the Hornets with those guys in the backcourt.  In addition to Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin has been playing terrific ball for the Clippers.  He could have a big game tonight, as I don't think David West is either strong enough or quick enough to handle him.

[Note by Steve Perrin, 11/09/10 11:29 AM PST ] Indeed, Lisa Dillman tweets that Gordon is not playing tonight. With the Spurs looming tomorrow, it's not a good sign that he's not ready to go yet.  So we can expect to see Warren get his first extended burn, and more of Aminu at the three since Butler will be spending all of his time at the two, and Eric Bledsoe will probably play 40+ minutes. In other words, it's a Club D classic. Hat tip to Citizen madglove for the heads up on the Tweet.  By the way, Lisa muses that Baron could try an early return with the backcourt so thin tonight.  We'll see. It's probably best to get everyone healthy for Detroit on Friday at home.

The Antagonist:

The Hornets are 6-0, with a win over Miami and at San Antonio, and I have to admit, I have no idea how they're doing it.  The numbers say that they're one of the best defensive teams in the league, but since when is David West a plus defender?  Or Marco Belinelli?  New head coach Monty Williams must have some pretty great schemes to have them at the top of the league.  Or maybe the teams they played just had some off nights.  When I look at the roster, I'm unimpressed.  Obviously Chris Paul is back and he's great, but the rest of the roster looks worse than it has in years.  Belinelli is a placeholder at the two, and Ariza is a fine fifth starter or sixth man, but not good for much more than that as he showed in Houston last year.  West is shooting 55% on the young season, 6 points above his career average, so that certainly helps.  I do like Okafor a lot, and feel that he's been underrated for years, but when all is said and done, this team will have to struggle to make the playoffs, 6-0 start notwithstanding.

The Subplots

  • Gordon.  Eric Gordon was scintillating in the fourth quarter in Utah.  He scored 13 of the Clippers final 14 points, including 7 in just over a minute at the end of regulation.  There is little doubt that it was the most impressive sequence of his pro career.  Most importantly, he's beginning to assert himself on the court, and he's scoring in big situations.  If he plays tonight, the Clippers have a chance.  If he doesn't, they don't. [Note by Steve Perrin, 11/09/10 11:38 AM PST ] They don't.
  • Kaman vs. Okafor.  Chris Kaman has never played well against Emeka Okafor.  He hasn't beaten Okafor in a head to head meeting since Okafor's rookie year in 2004, and he's shooting 42% against him for five games.  Given Kaman's struggles this season, and his struggles against Okafor, this might be a good game for Chris to concentrate on rebounding and defense.
  • Another day, another All Star point guard. And so it continues for young Eric Bledsoe.  Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams and now Chris Paul in his first five starts.  Paul would be a great player for Bledsoe to learn some stuff from - but unfortunately I think Paul maybe taking young Eric to school in this game.  Bledsoe will just have to try to stay in front of Paul, which is of course easier said than done.
  • Bledsoe's numbers.  Bledsoe has been beyond solid as a starter, averaging 13 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a block.  He's also shooting 55% from the field.  It will at least be interesting to see what happens if Gordon can't play.  All the playmaking will fall on Bledsoe in that case, and it would at least be fun to watch.  I think he's still got some surprises for us.
  • Griffin.  He had a career high 26 points versus Denver on Friday, and followed up with a career high 17 rebounds in Utah on Saturday.  Unfortunately, he only scored 3 more points after scoring 13 in the opening quarter in Utah, and he eventually fouled out near the end of regulation.  The Clippers need to find a way to keep him involved after the first quarter.
  • Trevor Ariza.  Ariza was part of the four team trade that sent Darren Collison to Indiana in August.  Ariza came to the Hornets from Houston, where the experiment in trying to turn a role player into a leading man can now be proclaimed a failure.  Ariza never got above 40% shooting in Houston last year - and he's shooting even worse this season, 34%.  He is a terrific defender and may be helping the team defense a lot, but he shouldn't be a primary scoring option.
  • Altitude.  At least the Clippers are back at sea level (or a little below, I guess), after back to back games in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Superstar for one game: Marcus Thornon.  Al's cousin had some pretty good games against the Clippers last year as a rookie. 
  • Famous Quotation: 

    The white-tailed hornet lives in a balloon
    That floats against the ceiling of the woodshed.

    Robert Frost, The White–Tailed Hornet
  • Get the Hornets perspective at the Hive.
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