Clippers Vs. Hornets - Game Preview - The Home Finale

March 26, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Hornets power forward Carl Landry (24) fouls Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) as he falls out of bounds while fighting for a rebound in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Clippers won 97-85. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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39-24

20-43
STAPLES Center
April 22nd, 2012, 6:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, NBA-TV, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Greivis Vasquez
Randy Foye
SG Eric Gordon
Caron Butler
SF Al-Farouq Aminu
Blake Griffin
PF Lance Thomas
DeAndre Jordan
C Jason Smith

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers close their regular season home schedule tonight against the Hornets. It is the last time this season they will play a team with a losing record, the last time they will play at home before the playoffs -- the last easy game, if you will. The Clippers are currently 23-9 at home, and have won 10 of their last 11 home games. They're also coming off two days of rest for the first time in what seems like forever. With just three games left in the regular season for the Clippers (and just two for their rivals, the Lakers and the Grizzlies), the Clippers could still finish anywhere from third to fifth in the Western Conference. They need to win two of their final three games to avoid fifth (assuming that the Grizzlies win out), and they'll need to win all three and also get some help from the Lakers to move up to third (more on that in a bit). The downside to continuing to fight for playoff positioning is that the Clippers don't get the chance to rest their stars, as many other teams are doing. But look at it this way: Blake Griffin is 23 and Chris Paul is 26 -- the Lakers need the rest more than the Clippers do, so keeping the pressure on the other L.A. team isn't a bad thing. The Clippers have won 13 of their last 16 games over the course of a month, a stretch they started just after the lost to these Hornets in New Orleans a month ago tonight. That game marked their third loss in a row, the only time this season they've lost three straight. Since then, they've only lost three times total and never in consecutive games. If they can keep that streak a few more days (starting tonight since they lost in Phoenix on Thursday) then they'll finish no worse the fourth and will keep home court advantage in the playoffs.

The Antagonist:

Give the Hornets credit: they are not tanking. Well, they may not be rushing the likes of Emeka Okafor back from injury, and some guys have been shut down for the season with injuries they might have chosen to play through had they any incentive, but the guys who are out there continue to play hard. Despite their myriad injuries, the Hornets have won 7 of their last 10 games, in the process have moved dangerously close to moving ahead of a few tanking teams like Sacramento and Golden State and Cleveland. One of those healthy Hornets tonight may be beloved former Clipper Eric Gordon, who has finally returned from knee surgery to play six of the last ten games for them. If Gordon does play tonight (and all indications are that he will) it will be his first meeting with his old team. Gordon has averaged 21 points per game since returning to action, which is pretty close to what he averaged last season. Another former Clipper, al-Farouq Aminu, has been starting for New Orleans recently as Trevor Ariza has apparently fallen completely out of favor. On the other hand, the final former Clipper, Chris Kaman, is done for the rest of the season. So too is Jarrett Jack who has been the Hornets best player for most of the year. Monty Williams has this team playing hard and playing well, but really they don't have the horses to play with a motivated Clippers team tonight. At least that's the hope.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper: Citizen Ricekrispy10.
  • Key Hornets Metrics
    Pace: 88.2 (30th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 101.1 (27th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (14th of 30)
  • Key Clippers Metrics
    Pace: 89.1 (29th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.4 (3rd of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (15th of 30)
    It probably hasn't been discussed enough -- the Clippers, with a premier point guard and the two most athletic bigs in the league, have played at a slow pace all season -- and it's getting slower. They are now the second slowest team in the NBA, behind only the Hornets. Yes, Paul does prefer to play in the half court, but this is just weird. The Clippers don't run enough.
  • Smith and Griffin. The game tonight against the Hornet is significant not only because the Clippers need to win it, but also because it features a reunion between Blake Griffin and Jason Smith. Smith was suspended for two games for his body check of Griffin in New Orleans a month ago. One of the games during his suspension happened to be the next meeting between the teams, so this will be the first time since the incident the two will share the court again. Coming as it does in the game after Griffin was again fouled flagrantly (this time by Robin Lopez of the Suns), and amid calls from old-school (and it must be said, not overly logical) commentators like Charles Barkley for his teammates to "protect" Griffin (whatever that means), it wouldn't be surprising if this game were to get a little rough.
  • Griffin sore. At practice on Saturday, Griffin's neck was still stiff from the Lopez hack, but he plans to play today. Reggie Evans who missed the last two games with the flu is also available.
  • First place? The Clippers and Lakers are tied in the loss column as of Sunday morning, with the Lakers holding a half game lead overall. The Lakers have a 12:30 tip off against the Thunder, still fighting for the best record in the Western Conference and a team that is 2-0 against the Lakers this season. If the Thunder win that game, the Clippers will be in first place in the Pacific Division, if only by percentage points, at least until the conclusion of Clippers-Hornets. Obviously, if the Clippers then win, they'll go up by a half game.
  • On the other hand. If the Lakers beat the Thunder in the matinee, what about this: rest Chris Paul. Watching the Celtics play the Hawks on Friday made me wonder if Doc Rivers is doing it right. In a 4-5 playoff matchup, what's more important? Home court for game 7, or rested and healthy star players? Paul's a lot younger than Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce, but if the Lakers win tomorrow, it becomes highly unlikely that the Clippers can catch them. At that point they'll be more or less locked in to the 4-5 series with Memphis, and the "rest vs. home court" question that Doc Rivers is dealing with begins to apply directly to the Clippers.
  • Landry. Carl Landry has had some huge games against the Clippers over the last few years. He'll likely come off the Hornets bench tonight, but when he does he'll get plenty of touches.
  • The hot hand. For most of the games since Mo Williams has returned from injury, he and Nick Young have been the closers, the wings on the floor in the fourth quarter. Not so Thursday in Phoenix. With Young and Williams missing most of their shots Thursday, Vinny Del Negro brought Caron Butler and Randy Foye back for the final five minutes -- and that unit lost the lead and the game. Butler had not played a single fourth quarter minute during the five game winning streak that ended in Phoenix. Countless analyses have determined that there is no such thing as the 'hot hand' in sports; the likelihood that a player will make his next shot is determined by his overall shooting percentage, not by how he has shot that game. Yet coaches always tend to play hunches, to try to play the 'hot hand'. If Williams is the guy you want on the floor in the fourth quarter, then that doesn't change simply because he's 2 for 6. He's still the guy, and you play him. That's what I say, anyway.
  • The pick from the trade. A big reason that the Clippers trade offer was perceived as better (or maybe just sold as better) for the Hornets than the Lakers trade offer was because of the perceived value of Minnesota's 2012 draft pick. Well, the Lakers offer included a pick from Houston, a 2012 first rounder belonging to the Knicks. Heading into the season, the Knicks pick, given that Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were playing a full season together along with the newly signed Tyson Chandler, was assumed to be late in the first round, while the Minnesota pick, from a team that had finished near the bottom of the league for three straight seasons, was assumed to be high in the lottery. Guess what? Today, until Ricky Rubio got hurt, Minnesota was every bit as good as New York. New York will make the playoffs in the weaker East, while Minnesota will miss out in the stronger West, and with the Wolves tanking down the stretch the MIN pick will be a bit better. But as of now, it's looking like the difference between the 10th pick and the 16th pick. Big deal.
  • It started with the Hornets. The Clippers current run of strong play in which they've won 13 of 16 started the game after they lost to the Hornets in New Orleans. Not only that, but the second win in that sequence came against the Hornets.
  • New name? The Hornets finally have a new owner that's not the league, and Saints owner Tom Benson bought the team (gee, what a shocker... why did it take so long to find an owner that ended up being the guy who owns the other pro sports team in town?) Benson has suggested that he'd like a new name for the team, more in keeping with the spirit of the city. The Hornets name came with the team from Charlotte. Unfortunately, the Jazz name went with the old team to Utah, and they're not giving it up. Leave your suggestions for a new name for the Hornets in the comments.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    hornet

    n. An alcoholic mixed drink consisting of sloe gin, peppermint schnapps, and Coke.


    A Hornet for the little lady, pard'ner.
  • Get the Hornets perspective at the Hive.
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