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Clippers at Pistons - Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
at
Pistons logo
4-0 3-1
The Palace at Auburn Hills
Nov. 9, 2007 – 5:00 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Chauncey Billups
Quinton Ross SG Rip Hamilton
Corey Maggette SF Tayshaun Prince
Tim Thomas PF Antonio McDyess
Chris Kaman C Rasheed Wallace

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are in Detroit for the final game of their first mini trip of the season.  Before the season started, if you'd told anyone that you thought the Clippers would sweep this trip, you would have risked institutionalization.  And while beating Detroit on the road remains a long shot for the Generic Clippers, at least they are in a position to hope for a sweep, which is unlikely in and of itself.  They do catch a scheduling break, in that the Detroit lost a tough game in Chicago last night while the Clippers were sitting in the Motor City waiting for them.  On the other hand, Cat Mobley is out with a groin pull, Corey Maggette is questionable, and Brevin Knight is also banged up.  So that's not good.  By the way, sorry about the scrunched Pistons logo above.  I don't have the time to fix it right now.

The Opposition:  

The Clippers looked inept against many, many teams last season.  But perhaps no team in the NBA beat them as thoroughly as the Pistons.  LA lost in Detroit 92-74 in a game that was not really that close.  It was tempting to dismiss that game as not indicative as it was last year's version of a generic game (No Brand).  But then as if to prove that they really were that bad, the Clippers lost the Staples rematch 98-80.  I was at that game, and it was a pathetic performance and their ninth consecutive loss to the Pistons overall.  That last game was after Shaun Livingston had been lost, so the Clippers were not really at full strength for either game last season.  Of course, it would be unwise to use the absence of Brand or Livingston as an excuse, if you catch my drift.  

As I mentioned above, the Pistons are no longer among the NBA unbeatens - it's just the Celtics and the Clippers for the time being (how happy is the Sports Guy?)  Four seasons after their championship in 2003, Detroit remains essentially the team.  At any rate, their core is the same, with four of the same five starters.  The conventional wisdom in basketball is that if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.  So while Prince continues to develop, one wonders how long the Pistons can remain at a top level without getting some new guys into the act.  Jarvis Hayes isn't the guy.  Maybe Jason Maxiell or Amir Johnson could be.  We won't find out more about promising rookie Rodney Stuckey for awhile as he broke a hand in pre-season.

The Subplots:

  • Will they need oxygen?  The Pistons starters are 27, 29, 30, 33 and 33.  The Clippers average age is over 28, third highest in the NBA, and Sam Cassell (38 next week) is the second oldest active player.  I'm just saying.
  • Cassell vs. Billups.  While there is no one like Sam Cassell in the league, Billups comes closest.  Don't get me wrong - Billups is better at this point, at least partly due to the fact that he's five years younger.  And Billups has more range on his jump shot.  But they both like to post up and use their strength.  And they both thrive on taking big shots.  It's always an interesting matchup.  If Brevin Knight remains limited, it could be a long night for the Clippers.  Billups will kill Dan Dickau.  Cassell actually could hold his own (Chauncey's not the lightning quick, Tony Parker type that Sam has the most trouble with), but I'm not sure he wants to work that hard.
  • Can Kaman stay out of foul trouble?  The Pistons essentially play two power forwards (Wallace and Antonio McDyess).  This means that Kaman will be the biggest player on the floor again, and if he remains aggressive he could have another big night.  But Wallace and McDyess are also good offensive players with an array of low post moves.  Not too mention that the Pistons motion on offense will force switches.  Chris has mostly remained out of foul trouble this season (his minutes were limited by fouls some against Chicago).  Wallace and McDyess are both great low post defenders.  But if Kaman stays out of foul trouble, I think he's just too big for them.
  • The walking wounded.  Cat Mobley won't play.  Corey Maggette and Ruben Patterson are question marks.  Brevin Knight is supposed to be available, but he was supposed to be available against the Pacers.  As much as I like the Clippers' depth this season, three rotation players (not to mention the guys we know are in suits) is a tough blow.
  • Whose turn is it?  Kaman (26), Maggette (27), Mobley (33) and Cassell (35) have led the team in scoring thus far.  I'm not predicting he'll lead the team, but I do think that Al Thornton is due for his breakout regular season game.
  • Matchups, matchups, matchups.  Cassell and Billups.  Ross and Hamilton.  Maggette and Prince.  McDyess and Thomas.  Wallace and Kaman.  There are interesting matchups everywhere you turn in this game.