|Nov. 11, 2007 - 6:30 PM|
|Sam Cassell||PG||Daniel Gibson|
|Quinton Ross||SG||Sasha Pavlovic|
|Corey Maggette||SF||LeBron James|
|Tim Thomas||PF||Drew Gooden|
|Chris Kaman||C||Zydrunas Ilgauskas|
The reigning Easter Conference Champs come to Staples Center, and along with them the reigning King of NBA marketing campaigns. The Cavs beat the Kings in the state capital on Friday night, while the Clippers lost their first game of the season in Detroit the same night. If LA can get a win against the Cavs and move to 5-1, the Pistons loss will be no more than an unpleasant memory. Cat Mobley will miss his second straight game with a pulled groin muscle. For the Cavs, Larry Hughes has missed the last three games with a leg contusion, and is listed as day-to-day. In a scheduling quirk, this is the Clippers fourth consecutive Central Division foe in the early season.
The Cavs had a rough off-season - contentious contract negotiations with key contributors Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao saw Pavlovic finally sign and join the team just prior to the start of the season, while Varejao remains unsigned at this time. Given that their biggest off-season acquisitions were Cedric Simmons and Devin Brown, perhaps it's not surprising that they've gotten off to a slow start. Yes, they're 3-3, but the three wins have come against the Knicks (2-2), the Warriors (0-5) and the Kings (2-4), and all of them went down to the wire. LeBron James has picked up where he left off - he's led the team in scoring and assists in all six games, and led them in rebounding in one of them (no small task given that Zydrunas Ilgauskas is fourth in the league in rebounding currently). On the young season, LeBron is averaging 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists. Can you spell MVP?
- Can the Clippers stop King James? This is a very tough assignment. Quinton Ross is theoretically the team's best perimeter defender, but James may just be too strong for Q. Q has had good success guarding some bigger players, but he's seems to do better giving away height, as opposed to giving away strength. If it's me, I put Maggette on James, for two reasons. (a) He's the best starter to match James' strength; (b) James is such a good passer, it behooves the Clippers to have good help defenders off the ball (not Maggette's strength. Ruben Patterson will definitely get a lot of minutes against LeBron as well. Ruben's listed as questionable (as is Corey) but they both played on Friday - they'll both play tonight. Given MDsr penchant for tinkering, don't be surprised if Patterson starts.
- Will it matter? The Clippers lost a pair to the Cavs last season, and James was a non-factor in each. Both losses were of the lackluster, who are these guys variety that we saw way too frequently last season. The Generic Clippers, though perhaps lacking talent, have at least played with intensity in most of their games.
- The battle in the post. Chris Kaman is averaging 18 points and 14 rebounds on the young season. Ilgauskas is averaging 16 and 14. Kaman has had trouble with the XXXL centers in his career. Ilgauskas and Yao have usually owned him. It's probably because Chris, for all his eccentricities on a basketball court, is still accustomed to being the biggest guy out there. Z is huge - 7'3" and 260 (that's what he's listed at, but he's got to weigh more than that). This game is where we find out if the work Kaman did this summer to get trimmer and quicker pays off. He needs to have a big game against Z.
- Is Daniel Gibson for real? The point guard matchup could be the determining factor in this one. Sam Cassell is licking his chops at the very thought of a 6'2" 22 year old trying to guard him. On the other end, can Cassell guard Gibson? In particular, he'll have to stay home on the kid at the three point line - 18 of his 28 field goals this season are from distance, and he's shooting a higher percentage (56%) from three than overall.
- Life without Cat. The Clippers survived the Pacers after Cat left that game. They did not survive the Pistons. Cat has played incredibly well this season, and was the go to guy in the fourth quarter of the first three wins. They needed baskets down the stretch of each of those games, and usually it was Mobley providing them. (The Pacers game was a blowout by the fourth, so they did not need his heroics.) Can they stay in this game without Cat? If they do and it is close at the end, who will step up?