|2011/2012 NBA Regular Season|
|March 6th, 2012, 5:00 PM|
|FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
|Caron Butler||SF||DeShawn Stevenson|
The Back Story:
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have lost 5 of their last 8, their toughest stretch of the season so far. Monday night in Minnesota they lost for the third time this season to the Timberwolves, when Chris Paul missed a free throw that would have tied the game with 2.7 seconds left. Even so, they haven't lost their position in the standings -- eight games ago they were in third place in the Western Conference and first place in the Pacific Division, and that's where they are today (albeit with a slightly smaller cushion). Three of the five losses have come down to a possession or two (as has one win) so it's not as if the team hasn't been competitive. But with Chris Paul on the floor, we're beginning to get a little spoiled, and we expect the Clippers to win those tight ones. One problem the Clippers need to solve sooner rather than later is the play of Caron Butler. Butler has been in a terrible slump that more or less corresponds with the time the team has been struggling. In his last nine games, he's made just 4 out of 21 three point attempts -- the Clippers really need Butler and others to make threes to help spread the floor for Blake Griffin inside and Paul driving to the basket. Griffin has been struggling on this road trip as well, though he did snap out of it a bit in Monday's loss to Minnesota. He's seeing much more aggressive defense against him lately (a trend he can expect to continue tonight against Kris Humphries) and he's getting frustrated with all the rough stuff. He needs to stop forcing things, to kick the ball back out and repost, and to go quickly against the pressure and double teams. Easier said than done of course. The best cure for a series of losses is to get a win, and that's what the Clippers need to do in New Jersey. With Brook Lopez out again, the Nets shouldn't be able to play with the Clippers -- but we've said that before.
The Nets aren't very good, at 12-27. Amazingly, they're even worse at home. Their 3-13 mark at the Prudential Center is tied with Charlotte for the worst home record in the league. I guess those folks in Newark aren't that thrilled about supporting a team that's moving to Brooklyn. New Jersey's young center Brook Lopez missed the first two months of the season with a stress fracture in his foot -- then, after playing just five games, he severely sprained his ankle and is out again, this time for three weeks. Which is all terrible for the Nets, who are in a tremendous state of flux. They mortgaged their future a year ago to sign Deron Williams, but Williams did not sign an extension and will be a free agent this summer. They are desperate to lure Dwight Howard to the big city to pair with Williams, but Brook Lopez and an improved team hinting at a bright future were two key components of their plan to acquire Howard -- with Lopez now out of action until after the trade deadline and the team 27th in the league, neither of those things have worked out. Which makes it likely they will end up with neither Williams nor Howard next year. For his part, Williams has been good this season. He made the All Star team, is leading the team in scoring at almost 23 per game, and scored a franchise-record 57 two games ago. Unfortunately, he's not getting a lot of help, which isn't surprising when you look at the roster. Against Charlotte, when he scored 57, the rest of the team combined scored just 47 -- and they barely beat the Bobcats. Beyond Williams, rookie MarShon Brooks is a gunner who can get on a roll, Clipper-killer Kris Humphries has been his usual solid self -- and that's about it.
- Tonight's Special Guest Recapper.
Fearless leader. You're stuck with me again. Citizen johnnyoc21 - you're not stuck with me after all!
- Key Nets Metrics
Pace: 89.3 (28th of 30 NBA Teams)
Off Rtg: 103.7 (16th of 30)
Def Rtg: 110.9 (30th of 30)
Dead last in Defensive Efficiency. That's pretty remarkable, in a league that features the Wizards and the Kings and the Bobcats and the Warriors. It must be killing Avery Johnson.
- Key Clippers Metrics
Pace: 89.6 (26th of 30)
Off Rtg: 107.7 (5th of 30)
Def Rtg: 105.4 (21st of 30)
- Scheduling break. All Western Conference teams face three of the 15 Eastern Conference teams twice this season. The other dozen teams they face once each. For the Clippers, those three teams are the Wizards, the Nets and the Hawks. The Wizards have the second worst record in the NBA and the Nets have the fourth worst. Having those extra games against those teams is a gift from the scheduling gods. The Lakers, by contrast, play twice against the Heat, the Knicks and the Celtics. (You don't suppose TV considerations had anything to do with how they built the schedule, do you?) The Clippers have already beaten the Wizards twice and the Nets once -- they'll try to make it 4-0 tonight. They have yet to face the Hawks this season.
- First meeting. The Clippers won the first meeting back in January in LA without Chris Paul. The Clippers built a 20 point lead, and then lost every bit of it, before getting back on top of the situation. Of course, the Clippers are much better with Paul, but for some reason LA has struggled against New Jersey in recent years.
- Williams vs. Paul, part 1. Ever since Chris Paul and Deron Williams came into the league together in 2005 (Williams the third pick, Paul the fourth) their fates have been linked. The ongoing debate was, who is the best point guard? Derrick Rose has inserted himself into that conversation, and Paul's team fortunes this season may be distancing him some from Williams, but it's still a rivalry. And as it happens, Williams has usually bested Paul in their head-to-head battles, winning 12 of 16 meetings. Of course, all of those games were between the Jazz and the Hornets. This is the first time the two have squared off since changing teams.
- Williams vs. Paul, part 2. Williams and Paul are also linked somewhat in their contracts. Both were coming up on potential free agency in 2012, and both were known to be unhappy with their original teams (Williams in Utah, Paul in New Orleans). New Jersey surprised a lot of people by agreeing to trade for Williams at the February 2011 trade deadline without getting a contract extension or even an extra option year from him. That puts the Nets in the delicate situation of potentially losing Williams this summer, after a year plus rental, after giving up a slew of assets for him. Paul was traded to the Clippers in December 2011. Again the trade was done without a full extension, but the Clippers did at least get one more option year. As of now, it looks much more likely that Paul will stay with the 22-14 Clippers long term than that Williams will stay with the 12-27 Nets, but we'll see.
- Nets on a back to back. The Clippers catch a scheduling break for the first time in a while tonight. The Nets got killed last night in Miami, so they're playing their second game in two nights with a long trip between. The Clippers on the other hand have been in town long enough for Chris Paul to do the New York morning shows Tuesday.
- Humphries, Clipper-Killer. Since joining the Nets, Kris Humphries has seemingly found a home. A former lottery pick, Humphries had kicked around the league with three teams in his first six seasons, never cracking the starting lineup nor really making a dent in the rotation. (He topped out around 13 minutes per game in his pre-Jersey days.) Since landing with the Nets, he has become their starting power forward and has played quite well, particularly rebounding the basketball. But if he's been good in general in New Jersey, he's been a complete monster against the LAC. In five career games as a Net, he's averaged 18 points and almost 11 rebounds while making 37 of 53 shots, which is 70%. He's also given Blake Griffin fits - Blake had one of the worst games of his rookie year against Humphries, with just 11 points and 3 rebounds. Griffin did however bounce back with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting between these teams this season.
- Humphries, Kardashian-Ex. Unfortunately for Kris, he's much better known at this point as the former husband of Kim Kardashian than as the power forward of the Nets. I don't "Keep up with the Kardashians" at all, but I have come to understand that the two were married on TV last summer - and the union lasted all of 72 days before Kim filed for divorce. The notoriety earned Humphries the title of "Most Disliked Player in the NBA" in a poll apparently conducted among 15 year old girls or something like that.
- Comparing the trade packages. The Nets gave up Devin Harris, Derrick Favors (the third pick in the 2010 draft), the third pick in the 2011 draft (Enes Kanter), and a protected first round pick in 2012 to obtain Williams. The Clippers gave up Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu (the eighth pick in the 2010 draft) and Minnesota's unprotected 2012 draft pick for Paul. Who gave up more? Discuss.
- The Williams team. A few years ago, the Clippers had Baron, Ricky and Paul Davis on the team. The Nets have gone that Davis team one better. The current roster features Deron, Shelden, Jordan and Shawne Williams (though Shawne is currently hurt). That's got to be some kind of record.
- Bigs. The Nets will be without not just Lopez, but also Mehmut Okur, who is out with a bad back. That leaves Shelden Williams, the bust-like former fifth pick in the 2006 draft, as the starting center, and Johan Petro as the backup. Now, in theory, the Clippers bigs should kill those guys -- in practice, Williams and Petro played pretty well in the game in LA.
- Eric Bledsoe. Eric Bledsoe has been getting more consistent minutes on this trip, and he's making the most of them. He's been very active on defense. He's been active on offense too, which is not always a great thing as he tends to get out of control. But at least he's making things happen. I for one kind of enjoy Bledsoe's "I'll figure it out when I get there" forays up the floor as a one man fast break. If nothing else, it's a good change of pace that catches teams off guard from time to time.
- Bobby Simmons. This will be Simmons' sixth and final game under his first 10 day contract. The Clippers will have to sign him to a second one before the Spurs game Friday if they want to keep him around. There would not seem to be any reason not to, unless the Clippers have a deal in the works that requires his roster spot. Given the fact that Simmons got all of the fourth quarter minutes over Caron Butler on Monday, one suspects that they're going to hang onto him at least another 10 days. Teams are allowed to sign a player to two 10 day contracts -- after that, they have to sign them for the remainder of the season or waive them.
- New owner. The Nets and Clippers have much in common. Both are the second, less famous franchise in a major metropolitan area. Both labor in the shadow of the other team (though in the case of the Nets, it's hard to say why the Knicks are considered the marquee franchise - I mean, at least the Lakers win). Both recently acquired All Star point guards who were top 5 picks in the 2005 draft. But the Nets got something recently the Clippers can only dream of for now - a new owner. Since Prokhorov bought the Nets he has made it clear that he intends to spend a lot of money to make them contenders. Of course, the Clippers have Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, and that's better.
- Anthony Morrow. Another Clipper killer is Anthony Morrow. Morrow scored 37 points against LAC in the fourth game (and first start) of his career.
It still stands as his career high. [I stand corrected. He set a new career high of 42 last month. Hat tip to Citizen d2s4ui1 for catching that.] Morrow signed an offer sheet with New Jersey in summer 2010 and eventually left Oakland in a sign and trade. The guy is just a phenomenal shooter - he's a 44% three point shooter for his career, which is fourth all time among players with more than 100 three pointers.