|Dec. 16, 2007 - 6:30 PM|
|Brevin Knight||PG||Derek Fisher|
|Cuttino Mobley||SG||Kobe Bryant?|
|Corey Maggette||SF||Luke Walton|
|Tim Thomas?||PF||Lamar Odom|
|Chris Kaman||C||Andrew Bynum|
The Clippers return to Staples, if not exactly home, after a three game eastern swing. Winning 2 of 3 on the road would normally be cause for celebration, but given that the one loss involved a blown 12 point half time lead, the champagne needs to stay on ice. As for playing the Lakers on the purple and gold floor, I sometimes think the Clippers prefer these 'away' games to the home games against their roommates. It has to be much more disheartening when the Clippers 'home' crowd (filled with closet Kobe fans and absent those Clipper season tickets holders who turn a nice profit selling these two games each year) starts the Ko-be chant. Playing as the visiting team, they still get to sleep in their own bed, and then they get to try to spoil Dyan Cannon's evening. Now that's motivation.
They say that time heals all wounds. But in sports, winning heals all wounds. There's very little talk of wanting to be traded coming from Kobe at this point, and last I checked he wasn't playing on Pluto (insert joke here about playing on Uranus). For all the talk of Mitch Kupchak not being Jerry West, you have to admit he's done a good job in the draft. Five rotation players (Walton, Vujacic, Turiaf, Bynum and Farmar) have come from the draft since 2003, and four of those were taken in positions 26 through 37, when frankly most guys don't stick. Only Bynum was a lottery pick, and he's beginning to look like the real deal. So credit where it's due. And Phil Jackson has this team playing much improved defense. The Lakers were 25th in the league in defensive efficiency last season - they're 13th this season. It's still Kobe's team - he's averaging 27 points per game, which is good for second in the league and is double the 13.5 of second leading scorer Lamar Odom. But consider this: in each of the 3 post-Shaq seasons, Kobe has average over 40 minutes per game. This season, he's averaging 36.5, and the Lakers are 13-9. The team continues to play basketball, even when Kobe is on the bench. That was not really the case the last few seasons. Kobe is a game time decision for this game after straining a groin muscle against the Warriors Friday night. He'll probably play, but I'm far from convinced that it's an automatic win for the Generic Clippers if he doesn't.
- Will Kobe play? Kobe's groin hasn't been under this much scrutiny since Eagle Colorado. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitresses. If he does play, he won't necessarily be 100%. ClipsNation knows from experience that just because you can play on a groin injury doesn't mean you should. With the Lakers starting a 4 game road trip on Tuesday, I think Phil leaves him out.
- A big game for Corey? Corey has had some of the biggest games of his career against the Lakers, including a 39 point outburst in their last meeting 8 months ago. He's scored well this season (averaging 20.4) but has yet to have a huge game (season high of 27). He's a tough cover for Luke Walton or Lamar Odom. He could definitely go for 30+ in this one.
- The best center in LA. Maybe it's something in the Staples Center drinking fountains, but Chris Kaman and Andrew Bynum are both having break out seasons. Although this will be their 6 head-to-head meeting, Bynum played more than 17 minutes in only one previous matchup (Kaman won that battle last April with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks). Kaman's play is making a case that he should be a Western Conference all star - but Bynum's per minute numbers are as good or better. Kaman has traditionally had problems with really big centers, and Bynum qualifies as one of those. Can Kaman, the savvy veteran, take advantage of the 20 year old kid? Can Bynum rise to the occasion of facing a top center? Phil Jackson has said that the Lakers are going to double Kaman often. How Chris handles the double team will as always be crucial.
- Thornton and Davis. Tim Thomas, like Kobe, will be a game-time decision after spraining his ankle in Memphis. If Thomas can't play, MDsr will start either rookie Al Thornton or second year player Paul Davis. Unfortunately, Lamar Odom will be a tough cover for either one of them (although they can surely do as well as Thomas) - he's probably too big for Thornton but too quick for Davis. Regardless of who gets the start, Thornton and Davis each figure to get significant minutes in this game. It would be really great if one or both of them could put together a good shooting night to add to the rebounding and hustle they've been providing lately.
- Who will help Kaman and Maggette? The Clippers have had a reasonably reliable one-two scoring punch for the last couple of weeks in Kaman and Maggette. Friday night in Memphis, they each went for 23. But it takes more than two scorers to win NBA games. Cat Mobley scored 17 in the win over Memphis. Mobley and/or Thornton and/or Dickau and/or someone else needs to make a significant contribution on offense.
- Go Zags! 6 players from Gonzaga have played in NBA games (and one of those played 4 minutes). John Stockton is retired, and Adam Morrison is out for the season. All three active, healthy Gonzaga Bulldogs will be in uniform in Staples tonight - Dan Dickau and Richie Frahm for the Clippers, Ronny Turiad for the Lakers. And someone needs to tell Mike Smith it's pronounced with a short a, Gon-zag-a (rhymes with bag) not Gon-zahg-a (rhymes with hog).