Clippers at Charlotte - Game Preview

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 07: Mo Williams #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers guards D.J. Augustin #14 of the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 7, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. . (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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16-8

3-23
Time Warner Cable Arena
February 11th, 2012, 4:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Kemba Walker
Randy Foye SG Reggie Williams
Caron Butler
SF Boris Diaw
Blake Griffin
PF Tyrus Thomas
DeAndre Jordan
C Bismack Biyombo

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Clippers swept the two games last season.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers got a very ugly win in Philadelphia last night, but it looks just fine in the W column. The team could not make a jump shot and they were 2 for 19 on three pointers, but they took care of the ball, they rebounded, they played defense, and they got the win. Hopefully it won't be quite as big a struggle tonight, against the worst team in the league. The Clippers of the past were certainly well known to lose these types of games -- they lost to a Cleveland team on a record breaking losing streak last season after all. Hopefully, the lapse the team experienced on Wednesday against an undermanned Cleveland team was their one mishap this trip, and it will serve to focus them for the Bobcats. It would be nice to get some players dialed back in after tough nights, like Caron Butler and Randy Foye and even Blake Griffin. But first things first -- win the game. Hopefully they won't have to rely on a Chris Paul last second shot tonight. The starters could use a little rest heading into the final stop of the road trip in Dallas, so a blow out would be especially nice.

The Antagonist:

Charlotte this season reminds me of Cleveland last season, so perhaps I should be worried. The Bobcats started off bad. They don't really have enough talent to compete night in and night out. Then, on top of that, they've got key players injured. Corey Maggette just returned last night after missing more than a month. Reggie Williams missed their first 21 games. Leading scorers Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin have been out for 5 and 9 games respectively. If you're not very good to begin with, and then some of your better players are injured, you're going to be really, really terrible. And they have been. They lost their 13th straight last night against Chicago by a score of 95-64 -- and Derrick Rose didn't even play. You look at the roster, even the full healthy roster, and you wonder how they can possibly win. I know that small market teams have an extra challenge trying to be profitable, but the first thing you have to do is put together a decent team, and Michael Jordan just hasn't done that in Charlotte.

The Subplots

  • 13 straight. Charlotte's 13 game losing streak may not be as bad as it seems. For one thing, 9 of the 13 were on the road. And 7 of the losses came against teams over .500. But the truth is, they're not going to get many more winnable games than Washington at home. If you can't break a losing streak against the Wizards, then you're really hurting.
  • Augustin and Henderson. Augustin has been dealing with an issue with his big toe that has kept him out of the lineup for over two weeks. He's getting close to returning, targeting Monday. Henderson strained a hamstring last week and could miss another couple weeks with the injury.
  • Our old pal Reggie Williams. In Henderson's place Reggie Williams will be starting. Williams signed as a free agent in December -- and then had knee surgery a couple days later. He just returned to action at the end of January, but has had a couple of 21 point games this week. Williams can score, as the Clippers well know -- when he was with Golden State, he had games of 25, 22, 16 and 16 against the Clippers.
  • The other Reggie Williams. Long time Clipper fans will remember the other Reggie Williams. The fourth pick in the 1987 draft (one pick ahead of Scottie Pippen, three picks ahead of Kevin Johnson), the small forward from Georgetown played two plus seasons in LA before being traded to Cleveland as part of the Ron Harper deal. He ended up playing 10 seasons in the NBA for 6 different teams, but never justified his lottery pick status. His most productive years came in Denver, playing for some terrible Nuggets teams under Paul Westhead.
  • Maggette. Former Clipper Corey Maggette is on the Bobcats. Who knew? Maggette has one more season after this one on the free agent deal he signed with Golden State when he left the Clippers. Charlotte is his third team in three seasons. The Warriors traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and the Bucks traded him to the Bobcats as part of a three team deal that also involved Stephen Jackson and John Salmons and draft picks -- basically, everyone was trying to give everyone else there problems. Maggette has played in just 7 games so far this season and is shooting under 30% from the field. As with Brand last night, there's no one on the Clippers roster who played with Corey in LA.
  • Both teams on a back to back. The Clippers played the Sixers in Philadelphia last night. The Bobcats were at home against the Bulls. So the Clippers have the disadvantage of travel. Of course, the Bobcats have the disadvantage of sucking.
  • Scheduling gift. The NBA schedulers gave the Clippers a gift on this one. During a six game trip, but six games in 10 days, this back to back in game 5 would be a schedule loss against most teams in the NBA. But Charlotte is so bad there is no such thing as a schedule loss against them.
  • Three point shooting post Chauncey. The Clippers have played two games without Chauncey Billups. In those two games, they are 5 for 34 (15%) from three point range. Before these two games, they were among the league leaders in three pointers per game. Billups is a great deep shooter, and his loss hurts in and of itself -- but it doesn't come close to explaining the shooting funk the Clippers have fallen into. Butler, Paul, Williams and Foye are all capable three point shooters, but you wouldn't know it from the last two games.
  • What the hell happened in Charlotte? Two seasons ago the Bobcats won 44 games and made the playoffs. So what happened? That team was led by Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson and Tyson Chandler. Felton left as a free agent. The other three were traded, transactions that netted the current Bobcats team ... Corey Maggette. I mean, they got a little more than that, but not much. Chandler and Wallace were essentially salary dumps (they still have a first round pick coming for Wallace). It's amazing to realize that Charlotte helped Dallas win a championship last year, and has made Portland a contender this season. It's astounding how little they got in return for those guys.
  • Homecoming for CP3. Chris Paul grew up in Winston-Salem, about 90 minutes north of Charlotte. He stayed at home and went to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. He'll have a lot of family and supporters in the crowd tonight.
  • Griffin. Boris Diaw had a terrible time trying to contend with Blake Griffin last season. I don't see Tyrus Thomas doing much better. Griffin should have a big game tonight.
  • Rookies. I guess the bright side about injuries and other struggles for Charlotte is that there have been plenty of opportunities to develop their rookies. They have two lottery picks from the 2011 draft, Kemba Walker from UConn and Bismack Biyombo from wherever he is from. Walker was very well known going into the draft as the hero of the national champion Huskies. Biyombo came out of nowhere in the Nike Euro pre-draft camp, going from unknown to lottery pick literally in a couple of days. Unfortunately, the 2011 draft is not the one in which you wanted two lottery picks -- it was a weak draft, and neither of these guys are can't miss players. Strangely, Walker may have been overrated from too much exposure in the NCAA Tournament, while Biyombo might have been overrated from too little exposure. Biyombo did have a double double in his first start a week ago against Phoenix. Walker has had some nice games, but is shooting just 37% from the field on the season.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    bobcat

    a cougar in training; a girl who is between the ages of 20-30 who is displaying early characteristics of cougarhood.

    That bobcat will surely one day become a cougar.

  • Get the Bobcats perspective at Rufus on Fire.
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