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Clippers at Grizzlies - Game Preview and Open Thread

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8-13 6-15
FedEx Forum
Dec. 14, 2007 - 5:00 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Damon Stoudamire
Cuttino Mobley SG Mike Miller
Corey Maggette SF Rudy Gay
Tim Thomas PF Pau Gasol
Chris Kaman C Darko Milicic
The Big Picture:  

Lately it seems that if the portents are for a Clipper loss, they win.  If the portents are for a Clipper win, they lose.  Their last two wins were in Sacramento, where they were 1-17 in their previous 18 visits, and in New Jersey, where they had not won since Bill Clinton was president.  Conversely, they had never lost to Charlotte before Wednesday night, and Seattle, Milwaukee, Miami...  well pretty much everybody... broke losing streaks against the Clippers.  The Grizzlies have lost 5 straight.  Uh oh.

The Antagonist:  

This is one tough team to figure out.  They had the fourth best regular season record in the Western Conference two seasons ago.  But when their best player Pau Gasol was injured in the summer of 2006, their 06-07 season went down the toilet (sound familiar?)  But wait.  It turns out that Gasol played xx games last season, and their winning percentage was not appreciably better with Gasol than it was without him.  So something else is going on here.  Which is why I was never buying the 'Memphis is a playoff contender' stuff in pre-season.  They weren't good with Gasol last season - is Darko Milicic really going to make a difference?  So far, the answer would appear to be no.  The Grizz are 6-15 - that's bottom 5 in the NBA.  They probably panicked and switched coaches too soon - Mike Fratello had them in the playoffs playing tough D, but they've been something of a mess playing up tempo last year under interim coach (and full time goodfella) Tony Barone and now under first time coach Marc Iavaroni, Mike D'Antoni's number one assistant last season in Phoenix.  But what do you expect?  Iavaroni was just a wannabe Rambis for the Sixers as a player.

  • So what happened to this team?  They won 49 games two seasons ago and 22 last season.  But Pau is back, and trading Shane Battier for Rudy Gay would seem to be paying off, given that Gay is their leading scorer.  So why are they 6-15?  In a word: defense.  In what has got to be the most precipitous fall of all time, the Grizz went from 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) in 05-06 to DEAD LAST in 06-07.  So far this season, they are 28th.  I guess Eddie Jones and Shane Battier were some pretty good defenders.
  • Go Zags!  If Richie Frahm suits up for the Clippers tonight as expected, the Clippers will become the first team ever to suit up two Gonzaga Bulldogs in the same NBA game.  History in the making!
  • But seriously....  The biggest reason to waive Ruben Patterson is a guy named Al.  Rookie Al Thornton needs more minutes, and now that Patterson is gone he should get them.  Thornton is one of the only guys in a Clipper uniform who can score the ball.  He can shoot the ball with range, he can get to the rim, and he can create his own shot.  There will be a learning curve, but let's get on with it already.
  • Defending the three.  The Grizzlies shoot almost 21 three pointers a game, 5th most in the league.  Mike Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Damon Stoudamire and others can all shoot the ball.  But if you know to stay home, and individual defenders stay in front of their man to keep the defense from breaking down, you can keep them from hurting you with the long ball.  Anyway, that's what someone told me once.
  • Thomas needs to play some D.  Pau Gasol is big and talented, and Darko Milicic is even bigger (if less talented).  Chris Kaman can't guard both of them.  Tim Thomas needs to step up to the challenge of defending one of them.

  • It gets tough after this one.  This is the Clippers seventh consecutive opponent with a losing record.  Unfortunately, they are 2-4 in the first 6.  Starting Sunday against the Lakers, they play 12 of the next 13 against teams with winning records.  If they don't get this win, it could be a very, very long December.