Clippers-Bucks preview: 70 down, 12 to go

It's hard to believe, but the Clippers have only a dozen games left in their season, and they could win their 50th game against the Bucks tonight.

2013/2014 NBA Regular Season
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vs
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49-21

13-57
March 24th, 2014, 7:30 PM
STAPLES Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
20-9 East 11-31
29-12 West 2-26
30-5 Home 8-27
19-16 Road 5-30
24-14 .500+ 2-32
25-7 .500- 11-25
9-1 L10 1-9
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Brandon Knight
Darren Collison SG Giannis Antetokounmpo
Matt Barnes SF Khris Middleton
Blake Griffin PF Ersan Ilyasova
DeAndre Jordan C Zaza Pachulia
Advanced Stats
98.29 (7th of 30) Pace 94.41 (24th of 30)
109.2 (2nd of 30) ORtg 99.5 (26th of 30)
101.4 (7th of 30) DRtg 108.4 (30th of 30)
Injuries/Other
J.J. Redick (bulging disc) out
Carlos Delfino (foot surgery) out


Larry Sanders (orbital bone) out


Nate Wolters (broken hand) out

The Back Story (The Clippers lead the season series 1-0):

Date Venue Final

01/27/14 Milwaukee Clippers 114, Bucks 86 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

After 70 games, the Clippers have their best record in franchise history at 49-21. A win tonight will give them 50 wins in a season for only the second time in franchise history, and the second season in a row. There are only a dozen games remaining in the regular season, and to put that in perspective, the Clippers recently went on an 11 game winning streak. Against the Pistons on Saturday night, but the Clippers stars played like stars, and that was enough for the victory. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were essentially unstoppable, making the Clippers unstoppable while they were on the floor -- but it was a different story when they weren't in the game. The bench doesn't have to be that good against the Pistons (or against the Bucks for that matter) but they'll need to be better for the Clippers to compete at the level to which they aspire. We'll give the bench a pass on Saturday, as Jamal Crawford was coming off a long layoff and may have been rustry -- it would be great to see him get things going tonight. The team leaves on a difficult five game road trip after this one, their last long road trip and the most challenging stretch of games in the remaining regular season schedule. This one is essentially a gimme -- so let's hope they don't screw it up with some difficult games looming.

The Antagonist:

The Bucks are having a tough, tough season. The funny thing is that they have two of the most surprising rookies from this season's draft in Giannis Antetokounmpo and second round pick Nate Wolters, not to mention other young talent like John Henson and Larry Sanders. But Wolters and Sanders are hurt, Sanders has been very disappointing after signing a big contract and then making several questionable decisions, and all in all the season has just been a disaster -- rookies notwithstanding. The Bucks currently have the worst record in the NBA and have lost 10 of their last 11 games, including last night in Sacramento. But they'll have their work cut out for them to hold onto that last record, with Philadelphia currently on a 24 game losing streak, second longest in NBA history. The Sixers have two more wins than the Bucks as of this moment, but the Bucks own the head-to-head tie-breaker -- can Milwaukee avoid two more wins in their final 12 games? That's the only way they can be certain to get the best odds in the draft lottery.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. When these teams played two months ago, the Bucks were dead last in offense and bottom five in defense. Now they're bottom five in offense and dead last in defense. They are clearly bad, but they can't seem to make up their mind the exact manner in which they are the worst.
  • Last three meetings. The Clippers have absolutely obliterated the Bucks in their last three meetings, last season and this season. In those three games, the Clippers have scored 113, 114 and 115 points.
  • Nine is the magic number. After Saturday night's win over the Pistons, the Clippers are now 29-0 this season when they make nine or more three pointers in a game. What began as a curiosity is becoming more than a little freaky. Can the Clippers go undefeated with 9+ threes this season? With J.J. Redick on the mend and Danny Granger shooting well, nine threes could be pretty commonplace in the final weeks of the regular season and the playoffs.
  • What the eff happened to the Bucks? The Bucks seemingly had some pieces, at least in the front court. Sanders was a defensive terror last season, Henson is one of the only players in the league as long as Sanders. Their first round gamble on Antetokounmpo has even paid off. But the backcourt was always going to be trouble, and Sanders' season may have been lost in a bar fight just five days into the season. Not exactly the behavior you want from a guy whose $44M contract extension hasn't even kicked in yet. On the bright side, it's a great draft and the Bucks will have a lot of ping pong balls.
  • Greek Freak. The good news for the Bucks is that the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo is far more developed than anyone imagined. He's played surprisingly well already, and at just 19 still has almost limitless upside. (Antetokounmpo has only been 19 for three months, which confuses me -- it means he was 18 on opening day this season, and I thought that was a no-no for the draft.) He's long, he's got point guard type skills, he's 6'9 and still growing -- there's a lot to like. It's rare for a player to come out of nowhere the way Antetokounmpo did (he was playing in lower division Greek basketball when he was picked). It's rarer still for them to pan out right away.
  • Two guard. The Bucks had a disastrous off-season, losing Brandon Jennings and J.J. Redick and Monta Ellis, though they did sign free agents O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal, a couple of shooting guards. So who starts at the two for the Bucks? For now it's the rookie Antetokounmpo (whose NBA position is difficult to discern at present, but he's probably a three.) Neal did not work out to say the least, and was traded to Charlotte at the deadline for Ramon Sessions. As for Mayo, he's been in and out of coach Larry Drew's doghouse and has been coming off the bench most of the season.
  • Caron gone. Former Clipper Caron Butler was traded to Phoenix in the off-season along with Eric Bledsoe as part of the deal that brought J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley to the Clippers. The Suns turned around and traded Caron to the Bucks, his hometown team. That was back when Milwaukee hoped they might compete for a playoff spot this season. Instead, they've got the worst record in the league, and they bought out Butler after the trade deadline, and he has since signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder where he has been part of the unit that closes games for them. So he went from being a reserve on the worst team in the NBA, to being a key part of the team with the second best record. Caron's a good guy, so it's easy to feel good for his good fortune.
  • Not this place again. The last time Brandon Knight of the Bucks was in STAPLES Center he was a member of the Detroit Pistons and this happened. I think we can be fairly certain that he won't be rotating towards any lob passes tonight.
  • Bucks for sale? The Bucks play in one of the smaller markets in the NBA in one of the older buildings. There have been rumors about them being for sale, and possibly leaving Wisconsin, for some time. But recent reports indicate that there may be a local buyer and that the sale could take place fairly quickly. That would obviously be great news for fans in Milwaukee.
  • Connections. J.J. Redick spent a very unfruitful few months in Milwaukee at the end of last season, wondering why Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings never gave him the ball. Bucks head coach Larry Drew played point guard for the Clippers in the late 80s.
  • Get the Milwaukee perspective at Brew Hoop.
  • Shakespearean reference:
    Comedy of Errors -- Act III, Scene 1 -- Dromio of Ephesus
    You would say so, master, if your garments were thin.
    Your cake there is warm within; you stand here in the cold:
    It would make a man mad as a buck, to be so bought and sold.
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