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Clippers vs. Bucks - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
vs
Bucks logo
6-9 7-8
Staples Center
Dec. 4, 2007 - 7:30 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Mo Williams
Cuttino Mobley SG Michael Redd
Quinton Ross SF Desmond Mason
Tim Thomas PF Yi Jianlin
Chris Kaman C Andrew Bogut
The Big Picture:  

The Bucks have one of the worst road records in the NBA, with a single victory as the visiting team.  Of course, the same is true of the Bulls, and their one victory came against the Clippers.  The Clippers' injury problems continue unabated and they have the five game losing streak to prove it.  Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and Sam Cassell have been the top three scorers for the Clippers for two seasons - and those were some offensively challenged teams.  Playing without those guys is pretty brutal, when you get right down to it.  When you add Cuttino Mobley's groin and elbow into the mix, plus the fact that promising rookie Al Thornton is doubtful because of a sprained ankle, LA is reduced to Chris Kaman creating shots for everyone else on the team.  So it's no wonder they're on a 5-game skid, and it's hard to see them winning until they get some players back.

The Opposition:  

The Bucks are an intriguing team.  Michael Redd is one of the best shooters in the NBA, with a lightning quick release and virtually limitless range.  Mo Williams is solid at the point, and Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlin are young, long and talented.  This team has some solid depth as well, with Charlie Villanueva, Charlie Bell and former Clipper Bobby Simmons coming off the bench.  7-8 is a good start compared to their 28 wins a season ago, but when you look at the talent you can't help but think this team is underachieving a bit so far.  A five game winning streak that included wins over the Cavs, Lakers and Mavs had them at 7-4 and seemingly on their way.  But they've lost 4 straight since then, and are a different team on the road - most of their losses have been by 15 or more. Of course how much promise you see in the Bucks depends in large part on Yi - is he really good enough to have displaced Villanueva in the starting lineup, or is that just the conditions of the deal that got him to Milwaukee?  This will be my first look at Yi in the NBA - he was very impressive in international competition when I saw him.  He's long, and he's freakishly athletic.  When he gets some NBA polish on his game, he's going to be very good.  

The Subplots

  • Redd light, green light.  Stopping Redd is a key to beating the Bucks.  He's led them in scoring in 12 out of 15 games this season, and when he is held under 20 points, Milwaukee is 1-3.  The Clippers have two solid perimeter defenders to send at him, and Quinton Ross and Cuttino Mobley will split time on Redd tonight.
  • Hamstrung.  Corey Maggette is listed as questionable for this game after re-injuring his pulled hamstring on Sunday afternoon against the Pacers.  Without Maggette, the Clippers have very few options on offense.  They are reduced to posting up Kaman, or posting up the hobbled Mobley.  No one else on the team can create their own shot.  My basic feeling is that if he re-injured himself on Sunday, it means he came back from the injury too soon, and it would be unwise to play on Tuesday.  Hamstrings are tricky.  As a former Phoenix Suns fan, I can tell you that a series of hamstring injuries changed Kevin Johnson's career forever.
  • There can be only one (losing streak).  The Clippers have lost 5 straight.  The Bucks have lost 4 straight.  They can't both lose.  Of course the Clippers gave the Warriors their first win of the season and the Bulls their first road win.  So I'm not optimistic, as the Clippers have been quite generous to the downtrodden this winter.
  • Getting the point.  Sam Cassell will miss his third straight game tonight after straining a calf muscle early in the Houston game.  Brevin Knight and Dan Dickau were supposed to be the team's insurance against losing Cassell, but so far the results have been disappointing.  In Sunday's 6-point loss to the Pacers, Knight was -28 in his minutes on the floor, while Dickau was +24 (hat tip to John R for this stat).  Maybe Dickau needs some more minutes tonight.  Staying in front of Williams will be key on the defensive end.  And Knight has simply GOT to start making open jump shots.
  • Can someone step up?  Please?  Kaman has been consistently terrific.  And that's it.  No one else expected to be in uniform tonight has played well during the losing streak.  No one's even had a single decent game.  Of the players expected to play, Ruben Patterson's 18 against Phoenix 11 days ago is the best anyone other than Kaman has played.  Yeesh.  Can Tim Thomas (13 points per game and 37% shooting during the streak) have a big game against the rookie Yi?  Can Quinton Ross (30%) make a couple shots?  Cuttino Mobley (29%)?  Kaman needs some help, and unfortunately I know not from whence it cometh.

  • Oh Yi of little faith.  When he was drafted by the Bucks with the 6th pick, Yi at first said he would not play for them.  He wanted to play in a bigger market (and the Chinese government wanted that too).  Some heavy lobbying (and probably some playing time promises) got him to change his mind.  As for the bratwurst and beer aspect of life in Milwaukee, maybe Yi can stop by LA's Chinatown while he's here.