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Clippers at Spurs - Game Preview and Open Thread

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at
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9-16 18-7
AT&T Center
Dec. 22, 2007 - 5:30 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Tony Parker
Richie Frahm SG Michael Finley
Corey Maggette SF Bruce Bowen
Tim Thomas PF Tim Duncan
Chris Kaman C Fabricio Oberto
The Big Picture:

Man, these back to back games are really brutal.  There's not time to prepare for the next opponent.  You get very little rest.  And I'm just talking about the bloggers!  Imagine what it must be like for the players!  Seriously though, I just finished my recap of the Mavs game and here I am writing a preview for the Spurs.  Seems kind of pointless though.  The Spurs are good and everybody is healthy (Tony Parker is supposed to be back against the Clippers, as if they actually need him).  The Clippers are bad and horribly depleted.  Repeat after me:  don't get embarrassed, don't get embarrassed.  Can we get that on the jumbo-tron?

The Antagonist:

The Spurs are 18-7, best in the Western Conference.  And that's AFTER losing 4 of their last 5.  But don't look at those losses and start doing anything crazy like 'hoping'.  One was without Tim Duncan, two without Tony Parker, and the fourth was without either of them.  But Duncan is now back, and as I mentioned Parker is supposed to be back tonight.  Great.  Here's how good the Spurs are:  Duncan, generally accepted as the best player in the NBA for the past decade, is arguably the third best player on the team so far this season.  It's not that Duncan hasn't been great.  Manu Ginobili and Parker have been that good.  The Spurs are the team the Clippers want to be when they grow up.  They've almost got the defense-first part down.  Now, if they could only come up with some sort of offensive clue (the Spurs run the best sets in basketball) and teach everyone on the team to make three pointers (if you're name isn't Duncan, Parker or Ginobili, then you have to be able to shoot to play for the Spurs) then they might really be onto something.

The Subplots

  • The white Tim Duncan.  That's what MDsr has been calling Chris Kaman.  Only thing is, I don't get it.  Not at all.  I mean, Kaman's an amazing talent, but his game does not even REMOTELY remind me of Duncan's.  Am I missing something here?  It will be interesting to see how Kaman does against the Spurs, coming off perhaps his best performance of the season in Dallas.  Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson (or as Matthew at Pounding the Rock calls them, Fabciso Elbertson) are undersized to be guarding Kaman.  But Oberto is one of those sneaky Argentines and he knows every trick in the book (he baited Bynum into an ejection last week).  And the Spurs defensive schemes are as good as it gets in the NBA.  It will be a great test for Kaman's development.
  • Expectations Management.  Once again, the Clippers are going to lose.  Let's keep the turnovers down (10 in Dallas last night was a very positive).  Let's get Maggette going (he was held in single digits for the first time this season last night).  Let's make some jump shots.  (Pretty please?)  Let's get another decent shooting game from Cat Mobley.  And let's get Al Thornton some quality touches.  Baby steps.
  • Ten in uniform.  The Clippers will start this game with 5 of their 15 players on the court, 5 on the bench in uniform, and 5 in suits.  Only problem is, the 5 in suits would win the red versus blue versus white round robin tournament if they were healthy.  And this latest round of injuries has depleted the depth chart at center.  With Aaron Williams and Paul Davis unavailable, the Clippers are down to Kaman as their only true center, and Tim Thomas and Josh Powell at power forward.  Powell will have to play some minutes at the center tonight, and Thornton may have to play some four.  Of course, asking Al to cover Tim Duncan would be ridiculous, so he'll only be able to play the four when Timmy is on the bench.
  • Defending Duncan.  In the last two games, the Clippers have faced Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki.  And they've only been able to offer Tim Thomas by way of resistance.  The results?  24 points (and 16 free throws) for Bosh, 30 points for Nowitzki, and two predictable losses.  Kaman will cover Duncan in this one - no one would be foolish enough to put Thomas on him.  But Kaman can't afford to get into foul trouble.  It's going to be a yardstick game for Chris on both ends of the court.  We'll find out a lot about the guy tonight.
  • They can't shoot, but they sure can dribble.  I was really hoping Parker would miss this game for a couple of reasons.  Obviously, it would have given the Clippers more of a chance in the game.  Specifically, without him the Clippers could play Dan Dickau more minutes, giving them another desperately needed shooter on the floor.  But it also would have set up an epic battle at the point guard between Brevin Knight and Jacque Vaughn.  Knight and Vaughn are both 32.  They were both first round picks in 1997.  They are both solid defenders and competent floor generals.  And neither one can shoot a bit.  Vaughn famously started the 01-02 season in Atlanta missing his first 22 shots.  He's the only point guard in the league who makes Knight look like a scorer.  I'm just saying.  I also kind of enjoy the irony that the Spurs have a point guard named Jacque and a point guard named Tony, and Tony is from France.
  • Ways in which the Clippers are not the Spurs.  Chris Kaman is not Tim Duncan.  Chris Kaman is great, but he's not Tim Duncan.  I actually think Elton Brand is closer to Tim Duncan, but it turns out EB is hurt.  MDsr is not Gregg Popovich.  Popovich can coach both defense AND offense.  Quinton Ross is not Bruce Bowen.  For all the comparisons, Bruce Bowen can remain on the floor indefinitely because he happens to be one of the most deadly three point shooters in the NBA.  You could easily argue that Q has more overall skills on offense than Bowen (mainly because Bowen is really bad).  But it doesn't matter.  Bowen has to do one thing on offense, he does it very well, and it means he gets to be on the floor.  (Of course, if Q had Bowen's reputation, he might actually be a better defensive player - at least at this point in Bowen's career.  But that's a different story.)  Corey Maggette is not Manu Ginobili.  When Maggette was a sulking sixth man last season, Ginobili was constantly referenced as an example of a player who is clearly one of the league's elite, yet who happily comes off the bench.  It is simply amazing how few minutes they play the guy.  In fact, you really have to wonder what they're thinking.  He only played 30 minutes per game in last year's playoffs.  It doesn't make sense.  Is he tired?  There are of course other ways in which the Clippers are not the Spurs, but those are the ones that jump out at me.