|2010/2011 NBA Regular Season|
|December 27th, 2010, 7:00 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM|
The Back Story:
- November 25th in Los Angeles - Clippers 100 - Sacramento 82 - Box Score Recap
- December 6th in Los Angeles - Clippers 98 - Sacramento 91 - Box Score Recap
The Big Picture:
You need to bear in mind throughout this preview that I'm on vacation, without TV and without internet.I wrote this preview before I left. I have not seen a basketball game or a box score since Christmas Day. I don't know if someone has been injured, or traded, or cleared to play in the last few days. And I don't know how the Clippers played against the Suns, or even whether they won or lost. If they beat the Suns, then things are looking pretty rosy - they've won four out of five, their best stretch of the season. If they lost Sunday afternoon, then it's a totally different feel. They've lost two in a row, and they can't beat the middle tier teams, only the bottom of the barrel teams. Either way, the good news is that Sacramento is the bottom of the bottom of the barrel, so while it matters a little for where the Clippers may or may not stand right now, it doesn't much matter for this game. The Clippers have already beaten the Kings twice this season - once handily, and then it was a bit more of a struggle in the second game. But in neither game did the Kings have any answer for Eric Gordon, who scored 28 and 29 points. Blake Griffin also had a huge game in the first meeting, but struggled a bit in the second (13 points is his lowest scoring output since his breakout game against the Knick on November 20th). Somehow I don't think he's going to struggle twice against the Kings - I think he may feel like he has something to prove tonight.
Remember back in the first week of December when the Clippers played the Kings and we said that the Kings were a mess? Well those Kings were the well-oiled, smooth running, well-adjusted Kings compared to what's going on now. Mess does not really begin to describe what's going on in the State Capitol - not even for the basketball team. We talked last time about how Coach Paul Westphal had shuffled his starting lineup seemingly endlessly. Well, that was three weeks ago, and he's made two more switches since then. Jason Thompson, who had replaced Carl Landry as the starting power forward, cut his finger a week ago and missed three games. He may or may not be back for this one. In his absence, Darnell Jackson got his first two starts, the eleventh King to start this season. Then Westphal went back to Landry (who, let's face it, is significantly better than either Thompson or Jackson. Meanwhile, if Westphal's dog had a dog, that's the house where rookie DeMarcus Cousins would be living right now. Cousins has been in kicked out of practice and benched already this season. He has now been benched again, after incidents in each of the Kings last two games. First, he made a choke sign - a really lame, childish choke sign, not a nasty, bad ass choke sign like Reggie Miller circa 1994 - while the Kings were in the process of losing a big fourth quarter lead against the Warriors (how's that for irony?), then he left Westphal hanging on a high five in their loss to the Bucks. At this point, the Kings are even talking about sending him down to the D-League. But Cousins isn't the only problem. Last year's rookie of the year is way off his productivity from last season, and is being bothered by plantar fasciitis to the point where he's already announced that he won't play in the Rookie-Sophomore game (a snide blogger might point out that he hasn't been selected to play in it yet, and that by shooting 33.7% from the field in December, he's making a pretty strong statement that he shouldn't be). And rumors are swirling that both Westphal and GM Geoff Petrie are in danger of losing their jobs soon. So yeah, it's way beyond mess.
- Kings at home. The Clippers dominated both of the first two matchups, save for a brief meltdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter of the second meeting. But both those games were in Staples Center.
- Clippers on a back to back. The Clippers are playing Monday in Sacramento after playing Sunday in LA. But as back to backs, it's not really that tough, since the game Sunday was a noon tip off. That's about seven extra hours that make a big difference. On the other hand, the Kings haven't played since last Thursday - so they've had three full days off. I think we can safely assume that Westphal ran some pretty intense practices during that time.
- D-Marcus in the D-League? Is it just me, or does sending Cousins down to the D-League seem a terrible solution to this problem? Cousins' issues have nothing to do with talent. He doesn't need more minutes or reps in game situations. He just needs to grow up. Wouldn't it make more sense to have him grow up while practicing and associating with the big squad? Shouldn't veterans like Sam Dalembert and Benu Udrih be a part of the solution? Making Cousins someone else's problem, sending him to Reno where he'd be a big wheel as the lottery pick among a bunch of NBA wannabes, solves absolutely nothing. If you want to punish him, at least keep an eye on him, since it's his maturity that you want to monitor. This whole D-League thing seems like an empty threat.
- An easy home stand. As all teams do, the Kings were no doubt looking at the current home stand on their schedule as a chance to get some wins. It's not often that you get five straight home games against teams with losing records. Unfortunately, they've lost the first three of those games, making their overall record 2 and 21 since opening the season winning 3 of their first 4. After losses to Houston, Golden State and an injury-riddled Milwaukee teams, while blowing fourth quarter leads in the last two, it's no wonder that guys are on the hot seat.
- Circled on the calendar. Of course, every struggling team circles the Clippers on their calendar. If the Kings have any interest at all in saving Paul Westhead's job (which they may not), or even any pride (also unclear), they'll be hyper-motivated to get this victory. A win will take the heat off, for a few days at least. On the other hand, a home loss to the Clippers has gotten more than one coach fired, and Westphal could easily join that list this week.
- Blake Superior. Griffin's measly 13 points in the last meeting is particularly strange when you consider how much he has dominated the Kings in earlier meetings, both in pre-season and in the first meeting. I'm assuming that the 13 point game is the anomaly, and that he'll go off on the Kings tonight.
- Gordon. In the second meeting this season, the Clippers allowed the Kings to come back and take a fourth quarter lead. But when the rest of the Clippers looked lost and defeated, Eric Gordon took over the game down the stretch. It was his most successful performance in the role of closer to date. Gordon scored 9 points in the final three minutes to ensue the victory after the Clippers had allowed a 16 point lead to slip away.
- Pooh Jeter. The Kings rookie point guard from the University of Portland has been a pleasant surprise in a very unpleasant season for the Kings so far. Interestingly, although he's one of the only players on the roster NOT to make it into the starting lineup this season, he's actually been better than Evans by most statistical measures. In fact, in the last meeting with the Clippers, it was Jeter who led the fourth quarter comeback. Evans is perceived as too important to the team's future to be benched for a free agent rookie - but it was certainly Jeter who hurt the Clippers more last time.
- Pick and roll. In the Thanksgiving Day game, the Clippers destroyed the Kings on the pick and roll. Gordon and Griffin were able to slice and dice the defense for dunks and layups all night. Gordon finished the game with 28 points and 6 assists. Unless the Kings have improved their P&R defense significantly, you can expect more of the same tonight.
- Worst Team in the NBA. The Clippers had the distinction of having the worst record in the NBA for most of the season. Their recent three game winning streak took them out of the cellar. Now the Kings are firmly established on the bottom rung - they have five wins, and Minnesota is next worst with six. But the Kings have been easily the most hapless team for awhile now, as evidenced by their 2-21 record in their last 23 games.
- Landry. Carl Landry has always played well against the Clippers. When he was traded from the Rockets to the Kings, he immediately became the full time starter. Unfortunately, he also immediately became a much less efficient scorer. In Houston he never shot less than 54% from the field. This season he's shooting about 48%. Is it because Houston's offense got him better shots? Or is it because he's not good enough to score in volume, as he's been asked to do in Sacramento? Or is he just better coming off the bench, facing the opposition's second string? He hasn't been starting for the Kings lately, and his shooting percentage is basically the same in his 15 starts as in his 12 non-starts, so that doesn't seem like the issue.
- Omri Casspi. Perhaps the best Sacramento player in the first two games against the Clippers has been small forward Casspi, who has scored 9 and 21. Why he's not starting over Donte Greene, who seems more or less useless, is beyond me. Greene's season PER is 9.7; Casspi's is 12.6. 12.6 isn't great, but it's a lot better than 9.7.
- Superstar for one game: . Udrih lit up the Clippers for his career-high a couple of seasons ago in LA.
I believe everything to be just when a king ordains it..Pierre Corneille (1606–1684), French playwright.The Death of Pompey (La Mort de Pompée), Act 1, Scene 1 (1642).
- Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty.