|Nov. 16, 2007 - 7:30 PM
With wins posted by Seattle and Minnesota on Wednesday night, the Warriors, the darlings of the NBA a mere 5 months ago, are now the last winless team in the league. Meanwhile the Clippers, who lost their playoff spot to Golden State on the last day last season, have started 5-2 without Elton Brand. So go right on and figure. The Clippers improbable start began with a win over these same Warriors two weeks ago in a game dominated by Chris Kaman's 26 points and 18 rebounds and Cat Mobley's 12 point fourth quarter. Of course, Golden State is not going to go 0-82 this season, so somebody is going to be their first victim. When they had a 22 point lead Wednesday night it looked like that would be the Pistons. Now it's the Clippers facing an even more desperate team.
This is the final game of Stephen Jackson's seven game suspension to begin the season and it's become pretty obvious just how important Jackson and the traded Jason Richardson were to this team. Still, their 0-6 record is not as dismal as it at first appears. Five of the losses have come against teams that won 50 games last season, with the only other one coming at Staples against the Clippers. The Warriors would love to get in the win column and avenge that loss, and are probably licking their lips at the prospect of playing a team that looks a little more beatable on paper. To add to the urgency, the Warriors leave on a five game Eastern road trip after this game, and their next two home games are against Phoenix and Houston. If they want to get a win in Oakland THIS MONTH, this is the game. They remain a dangerous, if enigmatic team. They'll let you score points in bunches, but they'll put up numbers themselves. And Baron Davis and Monta Ellis tend to kill the Clippers.
- Who'll start? Who knows? The Warriors have used four different starting lineups in six games. The Clippers have used four in seven games. Mickael Pietrus has been away from the team tending to personal matters and may or may not be back for this game. MDsr fancies himself the king of situational lineups trying to match up with the opponent. In the first game he started Ruben Patterson at power forward, and had Ruben defend against point guard Baron Davis. With Al Harrington back in the lineup, I assume Tim Thomas will be there as well. But that leaves Sam Cassell guarding either Baron Davis or Monta Ellis (if they start). With MDsr and Don Nelson (his former mentor), anything can happen.
- Can Kaman keep rolling? Chris Kaman had his best game as a pro two weeks ago against the Warriors, scoring a career-high 26 and grabbing 18 rebounds - he probably would have gone for more had he not missed most of the third quarter getting stitches after Kelenna Azubuike elbowed him on a dunk. Speaking of dunks, four by Kaman in that game was undoubtedly another career high. His performances in the subsequent six games indicate that opening night was not a fluke - and his confidence will be sky high, so look for another big game. Of course the Warriors will be focused on stopping him, so how he handles the inevitable double teams will be crucial.
- In the zone. In the first game, the Clipper offense sputtered when the Warriors went into a zone defense. Likewise, the Pistons employed a zone to mount their comeback in Oakland on Wednesday. MDsr doesn't play a lot of zone, but he does watch a lot of tape. It will be interesting to see if he tries it tonight. It makes a lot of sense against the Warriors, who have several players who try to break you down with dribble penetration. How the Clippers attack the Warriors zone, and whether they play some zone on their own, are two keys to watch for in this game.
- A return to run and gun. In their first four games, the Clippers averaged 109 points per game. In the last 3, they've averaged 86, including dismal games of 79 and 84. That's quite a difference. Of course the defense of the opposition had a little to do with the disparity, and facing the porous Warriors should get the offense clicking again. Let's hope the Clippers shoot a little better than the 36.5% they managed against the Knicks.
- Three is still a magic number. In the first meeting, the Clippers outshot the Warriors from the three point line, 7 for 18 versus 7 for 28. The Warriors are not a great three point shooting team, despite their willingness to put them up, but they are better than 25% (35% on the young season in fact). The Clippers can't afford to get killed from the three point line in this one, and they need to make some of their own, especially if the Warriors zone up. Tim Thomas is 3 for his last 20, but the triples he made in the first game were crucial for the Clippers.
- I'm spending way too much time thinking about Cat Mobley's groin. The Clippers do not win the first meeting with the Warriors without Cat's fourth quarter heroics, period. Given the fact that there's really no one for Cassell to guard on Golden State, while Brevin Knight and Quinton Ross are extremely limited on offense, Cat represents the best combination of offense and defense the Clippers have in the backcourt (ok, the only one who combines both). He played against the Knicks Wednesday and I assume he'll play Friday. But he was clearly way below 100%, and if Marbury can cross him over the way he did in the fourth quarter of that game, imagine what Baron is going to do to him? The Clippers need Cat at or near top form for this one.