Clippers Vs. Hawks - Game Preview - Still Something to Play For

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 14: Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots over Kirk Hinrich #6 of the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on March 14, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 96-82. 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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40-24
38-26
Philips Arena
April 24th, 2012, 4:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul PG Jeff Teague
Randy Foye
PG Kirk Hinrich
Caron Butler SF Joe Johnson
Blake Griffin PF Josh Smith
DeAndre Jordan C Jason Collins

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

It's pretty straightforward for the Clippers at this point. They have two games remaining, and it is still possible for them to finish anywhere from third to fifth in the Western Conference. With just three days left in the regular season, the Clippers don't even have to concern themselves with what Memphis or the Lakers are doing, since the Clippers regular season will be concluded before those teams play again. So it boils down to this:
- win twice to keep hope alive for third place, then watch Kings-Lakers Thursday rooting for the Kings;
- lose twice to keep MEMPHIS' hope alive for fourth place, then watch Grizzlies-Magic Thursday rooting for the Magic;
- split the games and resolve everything -- Lakers 3, Clippers 4, Grizzlies 5 -- before Thursday.

So obviously the Clippers would rather win tonight than lose, as it locks them into no worse than fourth (and guarantees home court advantage) while also keeping the pressure on the Lakers. A win in one of these two games would also give the Clippers a winning road record on the season for the first time in franchise history. Nick Young missed Sunday's game with the flu while Caron Butler left after the first quarter with a hip contusion. Both are considered probable for this game. If the Clippers are missing their top two small forwards it could be a definite issue.

The Antagonist:

The Hawks are in a similar situation to the Clippers. Atlanta does not have any chance to get to the third seed, nor will they be the fourth seed officially. But the Hawks and the Celtics are locked into the four-five first round matchup, and while the Celtics will have the official designation of the four seed, home court advantage will still go to the team with the better record. Currently that team is the Hawks, by a single game. Boston owns the tie-breaker, so Atlanta needs wins to be sure to hold off the Celtics. The difference is that while Memphis is furiously chasing the Clippers, having won five straight and likely to win their last two, the Celtics seem more interested in resting their aging stars than in anything as mundane as home court advantage. Still, the Hawks want the home court, so they want this win. Hawks center Zaza Pachulia has a sprained foot and will miss sixth straight game tonight.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper: Citizen John Raffo.
  • Key Hawks Metrics:
    Pace: 90.1 (23rd of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 104.6 (16th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 101.1 (6th of 30)
  • Key Clippers Metrics:
    Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.5 (4th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (15th of 30)
    So this is interesting, right? The two teams are almost mirror opposites. The Hawks have a top six defense and a middling offense. The Clippers have a top four offense and a middling defense.
  • Three point shooting. Randy Foye was 6 for 12 from deep on Sunday in the Clippers last game. The rest of the team was 1 for 16 -- yikes. At one point the team missed 17 straight three pointers. This team lives and dies with perimeter shooting, so let's hope that Mo Williams and Nick Young and Caron Butler (if the latter two are playing) can make some shots tonight.
  • Foye. Speaking of Foye, it's hard to ignore how well he's been shooting the long ball lately. And it's actually been going on for awhile now. He's shooting 47% from deep in April, and over 42% since the All Star break.
  • First meeting. The Hawks came into STAPLES Center in mid-March right in the middle of the Clippers mid-season slump. The Clippers had just lost two straight home games and had lost 8 of their last 12. The Clippers got big games from Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe off the bench, won every quarter, and beat the Hawks by 14. Unfortunately, it was another week or so before the Clippers really broke out of their malaise.
  • Last meeting in Atlanta. The last time these two teams met in Atlanta was a year ago February and the Clippers suffered one of their more disappointing defeats of last season. In a back and forth game, the Clippers had battled back from a double digit deficit in the fourth quarter to take the lead in the waning seconds, only to lose the game on the final play. With seconds remaining, Al Horford faked giving the ball back to Joe Johnson and wheeled down the lane where Blake Griffin fouled him hard. It was ruled a flagrant foul and Johnson made both free throws to give Atlanta the one point win.
  • Wake Forest Point Guards. With apologies to Delaney Rudd and Muggsy Bogues, tonight's game pits arguably the two best point guards to come out of Wake Forest against each other. Chris Paul is obviously in that category, and while it may be a bit early to elevate Jeff Teague to that level, he is having a fine season for the Hawks in just his third year in the league. I guess he may still have a ways to go to be called better than Bogues, but he's got a chance. By the way, does anyone else remember Randolph Childress? He was at Wake Forest with Rodney Rogers, and he was so good in college that I thought he was going to be a great pro, but he never really panned out.
  • Horford close. Al Horford, who has been out for most of the season with a pectoral injury, is getting close to returning. He will not play tonight against the Clippers thankfully, but there is still some hope that he could be back for the playoffs, or even in their season finale on Thursday.
  • Hawks lineup. After starting the first 36 games of the season, Marvin Williams has come off the bench the last month, with Joe Johnson sliding over to the small forward and Kirk Hinrich moving into the starting lineup. This is good news for the Clippers, as matching up with Joe Johnson in the backcourt was going to be a nightmare for LA's teeny-tiny guards. Hinrich is no post threat, and not much of a scoring threat, so the Clippers should be OK while he's out there. But Atlanta also has Willie Green and Jerry Stackhouse and Tracy McGrady and could certainly decide to go with a big backcourt at some point.
  • Williams. Williams will forever be known as the guy who was drafted second overall, ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Well, it's not like the Hawks needed a point guard in that draft. Oh, wait.
  • Hawks-Clippers connections. New Atlanta coach Larry Drew played two seasons for the Clippers in the late 80s. He replaced another former Clipper, Mike Woodson. Vladimir Radmanovic played a half a season and the 2006 playoffs with the Clippers. Jason Collins of the Hawks looks a lot like a guy who was on the Clippers last season.
  • Del Negro and Drew. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and Hawks coach Larry Drew faced each other five times as NBA players at the end of Drews career and the beginning of Vinny's. Drew was with the Lakers at the time while Del Negro was with the Kings, and it's no surprise that Drew's team won all five meetings.
  • Guarding Griffin. Josh Smith will probably draw Griffin. Smith is one of the few power forwards in the league who's anywhere close to Blake's league in terms of athleticism. Smith is giving away a fair amount of size, but he is a very solid defender.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    hawk

    n.
    A knife or other sharp object, similiar to a hawks beak being sharp

    Yo he pulled his hawk out
  • Get the Hawks perspective at Peachtree Hoops.
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