Clippers-Piston preview: starting a win streak

USA TODAY Sports

After two incredibly tough games in their last three, both losses, the Clippers get a break when the struggling Pistons come to town.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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44-20

23-41
March 10th, 2013, 6:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330
Buy Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jose Calderon
Chauncey Billups SG Brandon Knight
Caron Butler SF Kyle Singler
Blake Griffin PF Jason Maxiell
DeAndre Jordan C Greg Monroe
Advanced Stats through games of March 8
91.7 (16th of 30) Pace 90.8 (22nd of 30)
109.7 (7th of 30) ORtg 103.1 (22nd of 30)
102.7 (7th of 30) DRtg 106.8 (19th of 30)
Injuries
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Andre Drummond (back) out

The Back Story:

-- December 17, 2012 in Detroit | Clippers 88, Pistons 76 | Recap | Box Score

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have four losses since Chris Paul returned from a knee injury. Those losses have come against Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and in Denver -- those are the three best teams in the league and the toughest place to play. That's the bad news. The good news is that of their next eight games, five are against teams with losing records and the other three are at home. Beginning tonight against the Pistons, the Clippers should be favored in their next eight games. The Clippers have handled lesser opponents easily for the last month or so -- hopefully that continues tonight. Jamal Crawford missed the game in Denver on Thursday, but with a couple of days since the last game, he should be OK to play in this one.

The Antagonist:

The Pistons were not particularly good earlier in the season. Then they traded away Tayshaun Prince and prize rookie Andre Drummond got hurt, and now they're worse. The Pistons have lost seven of their last eight games. Without Drummond, the Pistons have been reduced to Greg Monroe and not much else in the front court, which doesn't bode well for them tonight going against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Monroe leads the Pistons in scoring at 16 points per game -- but their next four top scorers are all nominally point guards. The good news for the Pistons is that Monroe and Drummond are terrific young big men that they can build around going forward. The bad news is that they have few if any good pieces to put with them at this time, and that Drummond is currently out. So while the future doesn't look too bad, the present is pretty ugly.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The numbers don't lie. By offensive and defensive efficiency, the Clippers are a good team and the Pistons are a bad team.
  • Third in the West. The Grizzlies have won 13 of 14 games, and their win over New Orleans last night actually moved them ahead of the Clippers in winning percentage. The Clippers actually hold a slight half game lead in the standings, despite trailing in winning percentage. L.A. can regain the lead with a win tonight, but the huge game is Wednesday night when the Grizzlies come to L.A.
  • Time off. The Clippers have played 64 games, as many as any team in the league. Because they have just 18 games left, the have a fairly leisurely pace to their remaining games, starting now. They last played Thursday, don't play against until Wednesday, and then don't play after that until next Sunday. That three games in a period of 10 days. Which means we don't get to watch nearly enough Clippers basketball this week.
  • Crawford. Crawford has been in an incredibly groove lately, so hopefully his ankle won't keep him out of the lineup long. He tweaked the ankle Wednesday night against Milwaukee and then it swelled up on the flight to Denver, keeping him out of that game. Hopefully he's fine and can play tonight, but if he's hurting at all, the Clippers would be wise to hold him out and save him for the Grizzlies game, since they should be able to handle the Pistons without their sixth man.
  • Rotation. Has coach Vinny Del Negro settled on Grant Hill in the second unit? The last two games,Del Negro has gone small with the second unit, playing Hill at the four and Lamar Odom at the five, relegating both Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins to the end of the bench.
  • Three point shooting. The Pistons don't take a lot of threes, and they don't make a lot of them. Still, the Clippers will need to be aware of Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon and Kyle Singler, and keep an eye on Charlie Villanueva when he's in the game. As we know, the Clippers have lost a lot of games this season when their opponent has gotten hot from beyond the arc.
  • Connections. Some days I have to dig pretty deep to come up with some pretty tenuous connections between the Clippers and their opponent. This is not one of those days. Both Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups were major stars for the Pistons -- it may or may not happen, but you could make an argument for retiring either one's jersey in Detroit. Hill was among the best in the league, but his time in Detroit ended badly, with a career threatening injury that was exacerbated by team doctors giving him bad advice. Billups of course was the Finals MVP when the Pistons won the title in 2004 and made it at least as far as the conference finals six straight seasons in Detroit. And then there's Corey Maggette -- Maggette will eventually be remembered as one of the great Clippers of all time, though we're a little too close to some of his foibles to appreciate him at this point. Maggette had (and has) his flaws, but he always played hard, and he could score the ball. He is the fourth leading scorer in Clippers franchise history. Willie Green is a Detroit native who played his college ball at the University of Detroit (go Titans!).
  • Get the Detroit perspective at Detroit Bad Boys.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Locomotive Breath -- Jethro Tull

    In the shuffling madness
    of the locomotive breath,
    runs the all - time loser,
    headlong to his death.
    He feels the pistons scraping -
    steam breaking on his brow -
    Old Charlie stole the handle and
    the train it won't stop going-
    no way to slow down.


    My favorite Jethro Tull song of all time.
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