Clippers-Hornets preview: Desperately seeking revenge

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

The last time the Clippers lost was over three weeks ago at home against the Hornets. Well guess who's coming to STAPLES Center tonight?

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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18-6

5-19
December 19th, 2012, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Greivis Vasquez
Willie Green SG Austin Rivers
Caron Butler SF Lance Thomas
Blake Griffin PF Anthony Davis
DeAndre Jordan C Robin Lopez
Advanced Stats through games of Dec. 17
91.5 (19th of 30) Pace 88.1 (29th of 30)
110.5 (4th of 30) ORtg 103.4 (17th of 30)
101.3 (4th of 30) DRtg 110.4 (30th of 30)
Injuries
Chauncey Billups (ankle) out
Eric Gordon (knee) out
Grant Hill (knee) out
Jason Smith (shoulder) out
Trey Thompkins (knee) out

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

I'm not much of one to guarantee wins, but this game is as close to a lock as games get. The Clippers have the second best record in the league while the Hornets have the third worst record in the league. And while strange things happen in the NBA, like Washington beating Miami or the Hornets beating the Clippers, the fact that the Hornets did shock the Clippers three weeks ago in L.A. means that they can't very well sneak up on them in this game. If one crucial element of pulling the big upset is having the favored team overlook the opponent, that ain't happening in this one. The last team to beat them was the Hornets -- the Clippers will be looking for revenge. And revenge should be easily attained, provided they show up. In particular the bigs need to redeem themselves, after Griffin had the worst game of his career in the last game. This game also has historic significance -- if the Clippers win they will equal the franchise's best ever win streak of 11 games, set by the Buffalo Braves in December of 1974, when Grant Hill was two and the rest of the Clippers were not yet born. In fact, 1974 is two Anthony Davis lifetimes ago.

The Antagonist:

The Hornets have only won once since they beat the Clippers 23 days ago. They have the worst defensive efficiency rating in the NBA, which must be killing coach Monty Williams. (The Hornets didn't have a ton of talent last season, but Williams had them playing good defense. Not sure what has happened to them this year.) They are still missing former Clipper Eric Gordon (who recently tweeted that he's about done rehabbing his knee, though I'm not sure what that says about when he might be back on the court) but they do have first overall pick Anthony Davis back at this point. Davis and Ryan Anderson have actually been very good on offense this season (though Davis has been limited to 10 games because of injuries), but the Hornets just haven't been able to stop anybody.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Clippers are up to fourth in the league in defensive efficiency at this point. They are the only team in the league in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The first unit has been pretty good defensively, but the second unit has been ruthless.
  • Undefeated in December. Not only are the Clippers on a 10 game winning streak, they're also 9-0 in the month of December. With seven games left, the Clippers could have one of the most successful months in their history. The next three are against teams below .500, but the last four come against better teams -- not great teams, but better teams.
  • Beating the bad teams. When the Clippers lost to the Hornets three weeks ago, it was their third home loss to a 2012 lottery team. We've since found out that Golden State is pretty good, but still, the trend was disturbing. Since that Hornets loss, they've undefeated as you know, but more importantly they've mostly been dominant against the bad teams. It seems like maybe the team has learned something since those early lapses in focus.
  • Chasing the Thunder. Right now the Clippers are trying to catch the Thunder in more ways than one. Oklahoma City has the longest active winning streak in the league at 11 (to the Clippers 10) and the best record in the league (the Clippers are tied with the Knicks for second best). But things are about to get much tougher for the Thunder. OKC has played fewer road games than any team in the Western Conference so far, and they make up for that over the next six weeks, when they play 16 of their next 21 games on the road.
  • AFA. Former Clipper Al-Farouq Aminu began the season as a bright spot for the Hornets, but he's gradually dropping out of the rotation at this point. He played just four minutes in Golden State last night as coach Monty Williams casts about for something that will work for his team.
  • Jason Smith. Clipper fans in STAPLES tonight won't have Jason Smith to boo. The man who put an open field tackle on Blake Griffin last season is out with a shoulder injury.
  • Robin Lopez. Even without Smith around, we still have a notorious flagrant fouler from last season playing in this game. Clipper fans also remember Lopez from when he dropped his career high of 30 on the Clippers a couple of seasons ago. He's never had anything close to a game like that before or since.
  • Ryan Anderson. New Orleans is clearly undermanned against the Clippers, but they are not without weapons. The Clippers would be wise to keep a close eye on Anderson, who has scored 54 points in his last two games and made five three pointers in the first meeting between the teams (the Hornets as a team made 15).
  • Clippers bench. Uncharacteristically the Clippers bench was outscored by the New Orleans bench, 44-28, in the first meeting. That fact is even more surprising when you consider who was on the bench for the Hornets at the time. With Davis back, there's a little more firepower in reserve as Anderson moves to the bench, but still, the Clippers reserves have outplayed all comers this year, and I don't expect the fluke of the first game to play out again in this one.
  • Matchup of number one picks. Obviously the matchup of Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis is the one to watch in this one. Both of them were first overall draft picks (three years apart). Both are highly skilled big men. They are very different body styles however. Griffin is all explosion and strength. Davis is plenty athletic, but it is his plastic man length that makes him unique. It should be fun. Griffin had the worst game of his career, shooting just 1-9, in the first meeting. He'll clearly be motivated to play better. As it happens, that first game was when Griffin was seeming a little lost. He's been playing much better for the last few weeks, so hopefully that will continue through this game and beyond.
  • Connections. As with the Pistons game, there are a lot of obvious connections between these teams. Of course there's Chris Paul, who was drafted by the Hornets and played six seasons in New Orleans (and Oklahoma City for a time). Willie Green was once Paul's backcourt mate in New Orleans, which is why Paul recruited him to the Clippers. In exchange for Paul, the Hornets received Gordon (who has played just nine games for New Orleans since the trade) and Al-Farouq Aminu and the since departed Chris Kaman. They also received the draft pick that became Austin Rivers. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and Hornets coach Monty Williams were teammates for three seasons in San Antonio in the late 90s -- along with Nets head coach Avery Johnson, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers and Hornets GM Dell Demps.
  • Get the Hornets perspective At the Hive.
  • Lyrical reference:

    The Greatest -- Everlast

    I flow like a butterfly, I sting like a hornet
    They won't let me have it
    Not even if no one else want it
    And if I try to take it
    They wanna break me down and strip me naked
    They write a brand new rule and break it
    They lie, they cheat, they steal, they fake it


    My own rap phase was more of a late 80s thing and featured some De La Soul, some Boogie Down Productions, and of course Public Enemy. I had more or less grown out of it before House of Pain hit big (though Jump Around is an obvious go to song for jump balls in NBA arenas). I did enjoy Everlast's Whitey Ford Sings the Blues solo album, where he fused his rap with some more lyrical elements, quite a lot. This song came from the soundtrack of the biopic Ali. I'm not familiar with the song, but the pickings are slim for Hornet lyrics.
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