Clippers-Nets preview: Two in a row would be nice

USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers haven't won back-to-back games in the month of March, in contrast to their many win streaks the rest of the season. They can make it two in a row tonight against the Nets.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season
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47-22

40-28
March 23rd, 2013, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Deron Williams
Willie Green SG Joe Johnson
Caron Butler SF Gerald Wallace
Blake Griffin PF Reggie Evans
DeAndre Jordan C Brook Lopez
Advanced Stats through games of March 22
91.5 (17th of 30) Pace 88.3 (30th of 30)
110.0 (4th of 30) ORtg 107.4 (9th of 30)
102.8 (7th of 30) DRtg 105.8 (16th of 30)
Injuries
Chauncey Billups (groin) GTD
Kris Humphries (back) questionable
Eric Bledsoe (calf) GTD

Ronny Turiaf (knee) questionable

The Back Story:

-- November 23, 2012 in Brooklyn | Nets 86, Clippers 76 | Recap | Box Score

    The Big Picture:

    The Clippers have alternated wins and losses for the past nine games, which accounts for every game they've played in the month of March. With fewer then four weeks remaining in the regular season and the team in a heated battle for the third seed in the Western Conference, that trend needs to end really soon, like tonight. Not that they should need extra motivation at this point, but they do have the revenge angle in this game, having lost pretty decisively to the Nets in Brooklyn. With a four-games-in-five-nights road trip looming after this one, the Clippers can ill-afford to lose to the Nets again. The battle at the point guard between Chris Paul and Deron Williams will be the marquee matchup as those two have always been the story whenever they've faced each other ever since they were chosen three and four in the 2005 draft. But the more important matchups may be how the Clippers deal with Johnson's size at shooting guard and how DeAndre Jordan handles Nets leading scorer Brook Lopez.

    The Antagonist:

    The Nets have had an up and down season. They fired coach Avery Johnson just 28 games in, and have played better under P.J. Carlesimo, but they remain inconsistent. They're on a pretty decent roll at present, having won six of their last eight, and are only a game and a half back of the slumping Knicks for the Atlantic division title. Unfortunately, they're also on game three of a season long eight game road trip -- not the trip you want on the schedule when you're trying to make that final playoff push. There's lots of talent and experience on the roster -- four of the five starters have been NBA All Stars, including first timer this year Lopez. In fact, with Derrick Rose still out, one could easily see the Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals -- but they really need to pass the Knicks in the standings if they want to get there, because they do not want to see the Heat in the second round. Lopez leads the team in scoring, but Williams and Johnson are fully capable of putting up big numbers themselves.

    The Subplots

    • Comparison of key metrics. Last night's opponent was average on offense and terrible on defense. Tonight's is average on defense and terrible on offense. Another similarity that works in the Clippers favor tonight -- the Sixers, like the Kings, are much better at home than on the road.
    • Big Nets. The Nets are big at almost every position. Williams has good size for a point guard, Johnson is the size of a forward at the two, Wallace has played plenty of four in his career, and Lopez is huge. Evans isn't tall for an NBA four, but he's plenty strong. How Willie Green or Chauncey Billups handles Johnson, or finding someone for Jamal Crawford to guard when he's on the floor, will be a challenge for the Clippers. You can expect to see a lot of Matt Barnes to help on the wings, and this might be a game for Grant Hill on the wing as well. L.A. can also counterbalance the size with their quickness and speed if they can force some turnovers and get out and run.
    • Bledsoe and Billups. Clipper point guards Eric Bledsoe and Chauncey Billups are both game time decisions for tonight's game according to Vinny Del Negro. Bledsoe practiced full speed on Friday for the first time in awhile and declared afterwards that his sore calf felt fine. Billups practiced but did not participate in contact drills while he recovers from a groin injury. The Clippers are thin at point guard without them, with only rookie Malik Wayns backing up Paul. They'll definitely be needed on the road trip, with the team playing two pairs of back-to-back games.
    • The Race. The Hornets helped out the Clippers Friday night by beating the Grizzlies in New Orleans. That leaves the Clippers a half game behind Denver and a half game ahead of Memphis, with all three teams tied in the loss column with 22 losses. At least Memphis showed their not invincible with the loss to the Hornets. Nor is Denver invincible, though they are very, very lucky. Two of their last three wins are unlikely to say the least. They got the benefit of a couple controversial basket interference calls to beat Chicago, then beat Philly despite trailing by five points with 14 seconds left. Memphis and Denver are both home tonight and likely to win so the Clippers had best win as well to keep pace.
    • Reggie Evans. The Nets have one of the most expensive rosters in the NBA. They have five players (one at each position) making between $9.7M and $19.8M. But their starting power forward isn't Kris Humphries at $12M per season -- it's former Clipper Reggie Evans, making a little more than then NBA minimum. Evans, as Clipper fans know well, is a rebounding maniac. He leads the league in essentially every pace adjusted rebounding category -- total rebound percentage, offensive rebound percentage, defensive rebound percentage, total rebounds per minute and defensive rebounds per minute. He trails Roy Hibbard in offensive rebounds per minute by one tenth of a rebound, but bear in mind that Brooklyn plays at the slowest pace in the NBA and that Indiana is 29th in shooting percentage, so Hibbard has a lot more chances to grab offensive rebounds.
    • First meeting. When these teams met in Brooklyn in November the Clippers played a pretty decent first half and led by seven at the break. Then they came out and played their worst half of the season after intermission. They scored 29 points in the entire half and shot 30% from the field. I don't remember it being anything in particular that the Brooklyn defense was doing -- they just played dreadful basketball and could not shoot. Hopefully there won't be a repeat of that mess.
    • Avoiding a sweep. The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Nets are the only teams the Clippers have not beaten this season. The Thunder have completed their 3-0 sweep as the Clippers don't have any more games against them but L.A. can make it a season in which they beat 28 out of 29 NBA opponents with a win tonight. Not bad. (They may yet get a chance to beat the Thunder in the playoffs of course.)
    • Postseason clinched. When Utah lost in overtime in San Antonio Friday night it clinched a playoff spot for the Clippers. This marks only the second time in the team's California history that the team will make back-to-back playoff appearances.
    • More milestones. The Clippers next win will also mark the best season since the franchise left Buffalo. The team currently has 47 wins, a level reached by the 05-06 Clippers. For what it's worth, one more win (or one more Laker loss) will also guarantee that the Clippers finish ahead of their L.A. rivals in the standings. The magic number to clinch the Pacific Division is four.
    • Paul and Williams. Ever since they were picked third and fourth in the 2005 draft, Paul and Williams have been linked. As Steve Nash aged, the question was which of them would be given the title of best point guard in the NBA. Paul has more or less ended the debate on that subject over the last few seasons, but Williams is no slouch, and the one area where he has consistently bested Paul is head-to-head, where Williams' teams have won 14 of their 18 meetings including their only two meetings since Paul's been a Clipper (Williams missed the game in L.A. last year).
    • The 10K/5K club. How closely linked are the careers of CP3 and DWill? On March 11, Williams scored his 10 thousandth NBA point. Two days later, Paul scored his 10 thousandth. In so doing they became the 49th and 50th members of the 10,000 points/5,000 assists club in NBA history. Williams now has 10,105 points and 5,130 assists while Paul has 10,069 points and 5,321 assists.
    • The Kardashian men. I hate to even mention it, but it's going to come up. This game features two power forwards who have married Kardashians. The Clippers' Lamar Odom is still with Khloe -- the Nets' Humphries marriage to Kim didn't work out as well. They filed for divorce just 72 days after their reality TV wedding. Humphries is questionable for this game with a sore back, which is just as well given that he's had some big games against the Clippers.
    • Big minutes for Paul? Depending on the health of Billups and Bledsoe, Paul could be in for a long night. The Clippers have two days off before playing in Dallas Tuesday so it shouldn't be a huge problem, but they'll need Bledsoe and/or Billups (hopefully both) back by then at least.
    • Connections. Nick Young played 22 games and 11 playoff games for the Clippers last season after a deadline trade. He was instrumental in the Clippers' defeat of Memphis in the first round. Clipper Willie Green spent seven seasons in Philadelphia.
    • Get the Brooklyn perspective at Nets Daily.
    • Lyrical reference:

      Jason and the Argonauts -- XTC

      Seems the more I travel,
      From the foam to gravel,
      As the nets unravel,
      All exotic fish I find like Jason and the Argonauts
      There may be no golden fleece,
      But human riches I'll release

      I was in a land where men force women to hide their facial features,
      And here in the west it's just the same but they're using make-up veils.
      I've seen acts of every shade of terrible crime from man-like creatures,
      And I've had the breath of liars blowing me off course in my sails.


      XTC really doesn't get enough credit as a ground-breaking band. The stuff they were doing in the early 80s was really quite out there, and uncommonly good at the same time.
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