Clippers at Orlando - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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14-7
15-9
Amway Center
February 6th, 2012, 4:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul PG Chris Duhon
Chauncey Billups
SG Jason Richardson
Caron Butler
SF Hedo Turkoglu
Blake Griffin PF Ryan Anderson
DeAndre Jordan C Dwight Howard

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The Magic swept the two game series last season.

The Big Picture:

When Chris Paul first heard about the Clippers' long losing streak in Utah, he went to Ralph Lawler to find out if it was true. Paul vowed to help end that streak (which he did) and then he asked Ralph to inform him whenever the Clippers were up against history in a game. Well, the Clippers nine game losing streak against Orlando is their longest active losing streak against any team. This might be the time to end that streak, as the Clippers are on the rise, while the Magic have some issues. The Clippers got their six game Grammy trip off to a rousing start on Saturday with a big win over Washington, but frankly they'd be wise to play better against Orlando. Sure, the Wizards and the Magic both have Hogwartian names, but Orlando can actually play some as well. After beginning the season 1-4 on the road, the Clippers have now won three straight to even their road record at 4-4, and a couple of those wins came against quality opponents. Chauncey Billups was the difference in Denver, and Paul was difference in Utah, and while those guys have nothing to do with the Clippers nine game losing streak against Orlando, they could have much to do with ending it.

The Antagonist:

The Magic recently suffered through a string of losses that can only be described as embarrassing. First they set a franchise low with 56 points in a 31 point loss to Boston. Then they lost a 27 point lead of their own in losing again to the Celtics a few days later. Then they lost by 26 to New Orleans and by 21 to Indiana. They've since course corrected, and have won three straight, but something is clearly not right in the Magic kingdom. Of course there's the situation with Dwight Howard -- he'll be a free agent after this season, and has made it clear that he is considering going elsewhere to pursue the championship he hasn't won in Orlando (though they did make it to the NBA Finals in 2009). Like Chris Paul's own situation in New Orleans, Howard's pending free agency is a black cloud over the franchise, holding the specter of losing Howard and getting nothing back. Unlike with Paul, Orlando has decided to wait and see what happens. Howard will be a member of the Magic during the All Star Game in Orlando February 26th; but he probably won't by the NBA trade deadline on March 15th. What's strange about the situation is that some things have gone very well in Orlando this season -- Ryan Anderson is having a break out year for instance. But Howard is the whole story right now, and judging by that terrible series of games last week, it must be having some impact.

The Subplots

  • Handling Dwight. Perhaps the single biggest key to the game tonight will be DeAndre Jordan's fouls. Not that Jordan can actually handle Howard by any means, but nobody else on the Clippers can come close. If Jordan picks up early fouls, we might actually have a Solomon Jones sighting, and nobody wants that. Beyond Jordan and Jones, Vinny Del Negro is down to Blake Griffin (and he won't want Blake picking up fouls) or Reggie Evans or Brian Cook against Howard, assuming newest Clipper Kenyon Martin is not an option. The 6'8" Evans is probably the best bet in that case, but it wouldn't be pretty.
  • More on Jordan. DeAndre needs to play a disciplined defensive game tonight. This is not the night to go chasing weak every weak side block. If he does, Howard will kill the Clippers on the offensive glass. DJ needs to stay home on Howard, box him out on rebounds, and keep him pushed away from the basket as much as possible. Few centers in the league have much chance against Howard -- DJ has more hope than most.
  • Anderson versus Griffin. The matchup between Ryan Anderson and Blake Griffin should be fascinating. When Orlando has the ball, Anderson will draw Griffin away from the basket with his three point shooting prowess -- he's shooting 43% from there and leads the league in both attempts (156) and makes (67). On the other end, Griffin will overpower Anderson in the paint, though of course Howard will always be looming to help out.
  • Three point shooting. As is the case almost every year, the Magic are one of the most prolific three point shooting teams in the league. They lead the league in threes made per game at 9.4, and are top five in any other three point statistic you care to mention. But here's what's different this year: it's not just the Magic making a lot of three. The Clippers, believe it or not, are third in the NBA with 7.9 threes made per game. It's been feast or famine from the arc for the Clippers lately -- against Washington, Oklahoma City and in the first Denver game, they were on fire; against Utah and in the second Denver game, they were ice cold. Hopefully they'll be back on fire tonight.
  • The shooters. The challenge against Orlando is to help on Howard, but recover to shooters. In addition to Anderson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson all take (and make) a lot of threes. For most of the game, the Magic will have a team on the floor consisting of Howard and four shooters. It's what they do.
  • Kenyon Martin. Martin has already joined the team in Orlando and will be with them on the bench tonight. Martin has not yet practiced with the team, and won't play tonight, though he is hoping to play at some point on the road trip, according to the LA Times.
  • Jameer Nelson. The Magic's starting point guard Jameer Nelson has missed the last five games after suffering a concussion. He could be back for this game.
  • Doubling Blake. When the Clippers last played in Orlando, the Magic double Blake Griffin all game. Blake did a good job of passing out of the double teams, but no one on the team could make a shot, so it didn't much help. This is a much better Clippers team, with much better shooters in particular, so the same strategy is not going to work.
  • See you in three weeks. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul will be back here in Orlando in three weeks for the All Star game, where they will once again face off against Dwight Howard.
  • Road trip. The Clippers schedule on this road trip is very interesting. They have six games, three each against teams above and below .500. And they alternate, bad team, good team. They also have rest days between most games, the only exception being prior to the Charlotte game -- but the Bobcats are so bad playing them on a back to back shouldn't matter. Bottom line is the Clippers have every chance to win some games on this trip. They're relatively rested for this one, with Sunday off AND coming off a laugher in DC in which the starters all took the fourth quarter off.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    magic

    Used to discribe any food that weed is an ingredient of

    Try some magic brownies man.
    Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
  • Get the Magic perspective at Orlando Pinstriped Post.
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