|Dec. 18, 2007 - 7:30 PM|
|Brevin Knight||PG||Jose Calderon|
|Quinton Ross||SG||Anthony Parker|
|Corey Maggette||SF||Jamario Moon|
|Tim Thomas?||PF||Chris Bosh|
|Chris Kaman||C||Rasho Nesterovic|
The good news is that the Clippers are at home tonight, for their only home game in a period of over two weeks. The bad news is that they've actually been slightly worse at home this season (4-7) than on the road (5-7). They've also lost 5 straight at home. It doesn't get any easier tonight - Sam Cassell will miss his 11th consecutive game (they're 3-8 without him including the Houston game where he got hurt), and Tim Thomas (ankle) and Cat Mobley (stomach flu) are questionable. And Toronto is pretty good.
Quick, name four NBA teams with three regulars sporting a PER over 20. Spurs. Check. Suns. Check. Mavs. Check. Celtics. WRONG! (Ray Ray is a paltry 18.) The Toronto Raptors have three players over the magical 20 threshold in PER - Chris Bosh, TJ Ford and Jose Calderon. In a league where great point guards are in short supply, the Raptors have two playing well. Ford will miss tonight's game recuperating from that nasty fall last week in Atlanta. But that just means more minutes for Calderon, who put up 18 points and 16 assists Friday night in Indy and is second in the NBA (behind only Steve Nash, ahead of Jason Kidd) in assists per 40 minutes. Bryan Colangelo is trying to build a Canadian Phoenix - he's got his point guards, he's got the mobile big man in Chris Bosh, and the last part of the formula is shooters. He's got those. Six Raptors (Juan Dixon, Carlos Delfino, Jason Kapono, Calderon, Anthony Parker, and Andrea Bargnani) shoot 40% or better from the three point arc. Kapono is second in the NBA at 54%, Parker is 4th at 50%, and Bargnani is 10th. Looking at the numbers, you have to wonder why these guys are only 14-11.
- Unpleasant memory. Almost exactly a year ago, the home game versus the Raptors was one of the low points of last season (sure, there were a lot of them). On a 4 game losing streak, the Clippers figured to get a badly needed win versus the Raptors, 10-15 at the time and playing without Chris Bosh among others. Instead, the Clippers played lethargically, fell behind, rallied to take a 2 point lead in the final minute, only to allow a last second jumper by Ford to beat them. Maybe the Clippers, with the tables turned and playing short-handed, can get some payback tonight.
- Ralph Lawler drinking game. Anthony Parker is one of two active NBA players from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Ralph is from Peoria and is a Bradley alum. Here's how the game works. When Ralph says Bradley, you drink. When he says Bradley Braves, you chug. When he says Peoria, you drink. When he says Peoria Illinois, you chug. When he says Bradley Braves in Peoria Illinois, you chug, then open another one and chug it. Since Parker tends to get a lot more minutes than Patrick O'Bryant, you could get pretty hammered tonight.
- Mike Smith drinking game. Just kidding.
- Penetrate and kick. If Toronto is able to break down the Clippers' defense with dribble penetration, it could be a long night. However, with Ford out of this game, it's a little easier to keep them out of the lane. The perimeter defenders (primarily Knight and Dickau, Ross and Mobley) will have to stay in front of Calderon and Parker, and everyone has to stay home on the shooters. Let Kaman guard the rim - don't leave Kapono.
- Defending Bosh. One reason the Raptors are only 14-11 is that Chris Bosh is having an off year. He's still their leading scorer at 19 points per game, but that's more than 3 points per game below his average of the last couple seasons, and he's also shooting a career low percentage. The team is deeper than it has been, and Bosh is playing fewer minutes which explains the drop off in scoring and rebounding, if not the shooting woes. Still, he's the player they will go to when they need a basket, and he's the player you have to consider double-teaming (which of course leaves a shooter open somewhere). The Clippers may have to put Kaman on Bosh, as it hards to imagine Thomas or Davis or Thornton handling him.
- A big game for Kaman? After shooting just 6 for 19 against the Lakers I'm sure Chris Kaman would like to bounce back strong. Rasho Nesterovic is a solid low post defender, but I don't think he's good enough to stop new Kaman. He's not the really big kind that gives him the most trouble, while new Kaman should be able to use his quickness against the slow-footed Rasho. The Toronto Star seems to think the Raptors will prefer Kris Humphries on Kaman - given that Humphries is 6'9", I'd welcome that.
- Who will help Kaman and Maggette? I wrote it before the Lakers game, and it still applies, so it stays in the preview. The Clippers have had a reasonably reliable one-two scoring punch for the last couple of weeks in Kaman and Maggette. Mobley and/or Thornton and/or Dickau and/or someone else needs to make a significant contribution on offense.
- The feel good story of the season. In case you haven't heard, Toronto has a 27 year old rookie named Jamario Moon. He never played D1 college ball and was never drafted. He's played in every US minor league you've ever heard of, and some you haven't - the NBDL, the CBA, the USBL and the WBA. And this season he's starting for the 4th best team in the Eastern Conference. He's second on the team in minutes played, leads them in blocked shots, grabs almost 7 rebounds per game and plays tough defense. After trading for Delfino and signing free agent Kapono, the Raptors starting small forward is essentially a walk on. Go figure.