Clippers-Kings preview -- Another shootout?

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

The Clippers are coming off an exciting win over the Warriors and could be a bit tired for their quick trip to the state capital. The Kings are just happy to still have in-state rivals.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season
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1-1

1-0
November 1st, 2013, 7:00 PM
Sleep Train Arena
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Buy Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Greivis Vasquez
J.J. Redick SG Marcus Thornton
Jared Dudley SF John Salmons
Blake Griffin PF Patrick Patterson
DeAndre Jordan C DeMarcus Cousins
Advanced Stats (2012-2013 Season)
91.1 (19th of 30) Pace 93.6 (8th of 30)
110.6 (4th of 30) ORtg 106.2 (12th of 30)
103.6 (8th of 30) DRtg 111.4 (29th of 30)
Injuries
Maalik Wayns (meniscus surgery) out
Carl Landry (hip flexor) out

The Back Story (2012-2013 season, head-to-head results): Clippers won series, 3-1

-- 12/01/12 in Los Angeles | Clippers 116, Kings 81 | Recap | Box Score

-- 12/21/12 in Los Angeles | Clippers 97, Kings 85 | Recap | Box Score

-- 03/19/13 in Sacramento | Kings 116, Clippers 101 | Recap | Box Score

-- 04/17/13 in Sacramento | Clippers 112, Kings 108 | RecapBox Score

The Big Picture:

In two games this season, the Clippers have a a bad loss to the Lakers and an exciting win over the Warriors. The win last night serves to right the ship a bit, especially coming against a good team that was playing well, but there are plenty of concerns out there. Like 231 points given up in two games. Like a gaping hole in the roster where serviceable back up big men should be. But the Clippers "Big Three" played like a "Big Three" last night, and that's a very encouraging sign. They also got good shooting from the wings and looked like the offensive juggernaut we were expecting this season. We're two games into an 82 game regular season and one thing we know for certain -- it's going to be interesting.

The Antagonist:

As it happens, two of the Clippers' three pre-season losses came at the hands of the Kings, which could bode well or ill. Have the Kings bolstered their confidence in those wins to the point where they'll take the Clippers on fearlessly in this one? Or will the Clippers have extra motivation to put them in their place now that the games count? One thing the Clippers have been finding out over the past few years is that life is very different as a front-runner. Good teams -- especially the ones that are constantly in the media limelight as is the case with the Clippers -- get the best shot from their opponents more often than not. For the Kings, the Clippers is now a big game. And for a young team, having that extra motivation can be important. Sacramento won their opener on Wednesday, holding off Denver by two points. DeMarcus Cousins, in his first regular season game since signing a max contract extension, showed why they paid him by going for 30 points and 14 rebounds. The Kings and their fans are happy to still be in Sacramento and to have new owners and a new arena in the works -- but whether Cousins is a good bet as a franchise building block is going to be the single biggest factor in determining their success over the next four years.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics.The Kings were 29th in the NBA in defensive efficiency last season. Can a new coach make a dent in that? It's not as if any of the personnel changes they made are likely to pay dividends on defense -- Vasquez and Landry (who's out for a couple months anyway) are not exactly known for defense; Ben McLemore is a rookie and rookies are often very poor defenders when they arrive in the league.
  • The Questionable Blogger. I had a chance to send some Kings questions to Aykis16 at the tremendous Sacramento blog, Sactown Royalty. Be sure to read his insightful answers before the game to enhance your basketball viewing experience.
  • Another shootout? The Clippers are giving up points in buckets, the Kings were a high-scoring team last season. The Kings were a terrible defensive team last season, and the Clippers figure to be one of the best offensive teams in the league. Can we expect another high-scoring affair similar to the 126-115 shootout last night?
  • Prime Ticket. At long last, we get to listen to Ralph and Mike call a game. I don't know about you guys, but I can't STAND Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller. I like Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, and hopefully the next couple of Thursday games, which are on the road, will have those guys. But is it my imagination or are Harlan and Miller a little... stupid? Harlan talks about basketball the way I would talk about football -- like a guy who's not at all an expert about every sport, but who is being asked to pretend to be one. Among the things he said last night that made me moan were "Matt Barnes has played for virtually every team in the league" (he's played for eight, which is a lot, but not in any way "virtually every") and when he was discussing Mullens; yes, Mullens played in Greece and the D-League, but while he was under contract with the Thunder (he was in Greece briefly during the lockout) -- Harlan implied that Mullens has bounced around and had to play his way into the NBA, when in fact he was a first round pick who has been in the league since being drafted. (But when the subject of NFL players who dabbled in basketball came up, Harlan was all over it of course.) As for Miller, don't get me started. My favorite was him talking about Griffin being undersized and struggling against the bigger David Lee. Pre-Draft stocking feet measurements: Griffin 6'8.5; Lee 6'7.75. So anyway, happy to have Ralph and Mike back tonight.
  • Tough back to back. Jordan 41 minutes, Paul 37 minutes, Griffin 35 minutes. We should be thankful that Griffin fouled out so he could get a little extra rest. Also, the combination of the TNT game and the 7:00 PM tip in Sacto (LA games tip at 7:30) makes this a quick turnaround. TNT games always run long, and the fourth quarter didn't start until 10 PM last night. I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but back to backs are tough enough when there's no travel and you have a full 24 hours (less game time). The Clippers may feel that extra hour or so they are losing compared to most B2Bs.
  • The Big Three. Chris Paul 42 Points and 15 assists. Blake Griffin 23 points, 10 rebounds, 9-12 from the field. DeAndre Jordan 9 points, 17 rebounds in 41 minutes. Those are Big Three type numbers. Jordan has now played 76 minutes in two games and may be the most indispensable member of the team right now because of his defense and the lack of decent options backing him up. Paul is obviously better -- but if he needs a rest Darren Collison can do the job for a bit. Jordan is supposed to be in the best shape of his life -- let's hope it's true, because he's going to be needed.
  • Bad blood. Why is it that I seem to say there's bad blood between the Clippers and every team they play? Clippers-Lakers? Bad blood. Clippers-Warriors? Bad blood. Clippers-Kings? Bad blood. I'm beginning to thing the other teams don't like the Clippers. Actually, these the California teams, and the Grizzlies of course, do seem to have the most animosity towards the Clippers. Something to that whole familiarity breeds contempt thing I guess. DeMarcus Cousins has had several incidents with the Clippers -- including his "great actor" line about Blake Griffin. Chris Paul had something to say about the trash talk of Greivis Vasquez last year when General Greivis was with the Hornets. Keep an eye on Boogie's body language tonight. He's played himself out of games against the Clippers in the past (sometimes literally) by letting thing get into his head.
  • The Matchup. Look no further than the center circle when the ref tosses the ball tonight for the marquee matchup. DeMarcus vs. DeAndre is the game within the game. Jordan, who has been slurping the help defense Kool-Aid since Doc Rivers' arrival, will have to do that job while also handling the Kings' top scoring threat. It's a great early season challenge for Jordan.
  • The departed Tyreke Evans. The fact that the deal wound up being a sign-and-trade makes this less stark, but I have Tyreke Evans as the only NBA Rookie of the Year in the CBA era to become a free agent and leave at the end of his rookie deal. Rookie scale contracts are crucial in the modern NBA for providing cheap productivity; Rookie's of the Year are therefore amazing assets usually. Plenty of ROY's have left via trade -- Damon Stoudamire, Mike Miller, Elton Brand, Chris Webber -- but those were all blockbuster trades while the player was under contract. Never before in my recollection has a rookie fallen so far as to be allowed to become a free agent and not retained.
  • Vasquez. But the Kings did manage to parlay Evans into Greivis Vasquez in a sign-and-trade, which is pretty amazing really considering how little leverage they had. Vasquez was third in the NBA in assists per game last season. He actually led the league in total assists because he played more games than Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul. He posted a respectable 16.3 PER last year. He's not a great defender nor a great scorer, but he sees the floor well and knows how to run a team. As Aykis16 points out in the Q&A, he's a great complement to the diminutive Isaiah Thomas, who's just too darn small to be a full time starter in the NBA, but who is a tremendous scorer and provides a great change-of-pace now when he comes in for Vasquez. Turning Evans into Vasquez is a very nice save for the Kings and could turn out to be an important acquisition for them.
  • New coach in Sacto. Mike Malone has been a highly regarded assistant in the league for many years, and in fact was an assistant in New Orleans when Paul played there. There are some who credit Malone more than Mark Jackson for Golden State's improvements last season. He takes over for Keith Smart, who took over for Paul Westphal -- who each had their run-ins with Cousins. By all accounts, Malone is a great X's and O's coach, but how he does in his first head coaching gig may come down to how he handles his volatile star player -- a player who now has the security of a $62M contract.
  • New owners in Sacto. Obviously the Kings didn't go to Seattle this summer, which is as it should be -- the NBA got that one right. The new ownership group, led by Vivek Ranadivé, has infused the entire community with a new sense of excitement following the Maloof ownership era. You know how we feel abut Donald Sterling? Take that and triple it (once for each Maloof brother) and you'll get a sense for why the fans are so happy to have a new owner -- one who is genuinely passionate about the NBA.
  • Three point defense. The Clippers have allowed their opponents to make 26 of 50 three pointers in two games. It's an absurdly small sample size of course, one that is exacerbated by the presence of Stephen Curry among the opposition, but three point defense was a problem for the team last season and has been a major point of emphasis for Rivers this year. The Kings managed to take one game from the Clippers last season -- when they made a crapload of threes (specifically 14, which is not technically a crapload except in Mississippi and parts of Indiana, but is a bunch anywhere you go). So yeah, maybe keep an eye on that.
  • Connections. Travis Outlaw is still in the NBA! Who knew? Outlaw was briefly a Clipper in 2010 and he was signed by the Kings after being amnestied by the Nets last season, and he's actually in the rotation this year. Matt Barnes played high school basketball and football at Del Campo High in Sacramento. Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute were teammates at UCLA for three years -- the first of which was spent with Ryan Hollins as well. Willie Green and Kings rookie Ray McCallum are the two active NBA players from Detroit Mercy (Go Titans!).
  • Get the Kings perspective at Sactown Royalty.
  • Shakespearean reference:

    Hamlet, Act I, Scene 2

    O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
    Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
    Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd 
    His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
    How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
    Seem to me all the uses of this world!
    Fie on't! ah, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden
    That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
    Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
    But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.
    So excellent a king, that was to this
    Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
    That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
    Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
    Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
    As if increase of appetite had grown
    By what it fed on; and yet, within a month-
    Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman!-
    A little month, or ere those shoes were old
    With which she followed my poor father's body
    Like Niobe, all tears- why she, even she
    (O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason
    Would have mourn'd longer) married with my uncle; 
    My father's brother, but no more like my father
    Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
    Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
    Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
    She married. O, most wicked speed, to post 
    With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
    It is not, nor it cannot come to good.
    But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue!


    Yea, tho 'twill be nigh impossible to findeth apt Shakespearean fodder for these many a Clipper foe, lo the seas do but teem with a vast multitude of kingly utterances.

    I was tempted to go with another Sonnet if only to tempt Zhiv out of hiding once more, but how can I resist Hamlet -- and his very first soliloquy no less? Perhaps my third favorite of Hamlet's many, many soliloquies (my favorite is "What a piece of work is man" followed by the old favorite "To be or not to be?"), this one comes in our very first introduction to the melancholy Prince, after his mother Gertrude and uncle Claudius (her new husband and now the king) have exited. This scene is the audience's first journey into Hamlet's tortured psyche, where his father's death and mother's betrayal ("Frailty thy name is woman") have led him to thoughts of suicide and emptiness ("How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!") 

    Had I worked a bit more, I could probably have come up with some Shakespearean angle for the ownership struggle last year in Sacramento -- which happily has turned out to be a love story and not a tragedy. Had it gone the other way, this might work perfectly. Chris Hansen as Claudius, plotting to rule. The franchise itself as Gertrude. The fans in the role of Hamlet. Maybe the Maloofs would be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for comic relief. But the team stayed in Sacramento, so it doesn't really work. Oh well.
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