|Dec. 7, 2007 - 7:00 PM|
|Brevin Knight||PG||Beno Udrih|
|Quinton Ross||SG||John Salmons|
|Corey Maggette||SF||Ron Artest|
|Tim Thomas||PF||Mikki Moore|
|Chris Kaman||C||Brad Miller|
The Clippers continue to play without their leading scorer and third leading scorer from the last couple of seasons, in addition to other injuries. This just in: the Kings are playing without their leading scorer and third leading scorer. Kevin Martin pulled his groin in their last game, a home win against the Jazz, and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks. So he joins Mike Bibby, who went down with a thumb injury in pre-season. The good news is, those of you who always wanted to see Beno Udrih battle Dan Dickau at point guard in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game, this is your chance. You've waited a long time. The Clippers are riding a 7 game losing streak, their longest in three seasons. The Kings are still VERY good at home in the Barn they call Arco Arena where they are 7-3 (versus 0-7 on the road). An eighth loss puts the Clippers firmly in last place in the Pacific Division.
We've already mentioned that the Kings will be playing without Bibby and Martin. We've also mentioned that they are 7-3 at home, including wins over Utah, Houston, San Antonio and Detroit. The simple fact is, prior to losing KMart, the Kings were better than good at home. We'll see how good they are without Speed Racer. The irony about Martin's injury is that the Clippers did a great job of shutting him down last season - John Salmons, who will probably replace Martin in the starting lineup, tends to give the Clippers fits. Ron Artest will try to carry the load for the Kings, and he's having a great season so far averaging 22 points and 7 boards. He's another player who kills the Clippers. When Bibby got hurt, the Kings went out to the waiver wire and picked up Beno Udrih, the only draft pick RJ Buford ever got wrong. Only now it looks like maybe he didn't get it wrong after all, as Udrih is averaging 14 points in 35 minutes per game as the Kings starter. 31 year old Brad Miller is having something of a bounce back season, averaging 11.3 points and 8.6 rebound per game.
- Kaman could go off. As good as Kaman's been this season, one still gets the impression that something really big could happen any game now. He went for 26 in the first game of the season, and that remains his career high. But that 30 or 40 point outburst could definitely be in the offing. (I thought it might happen when he had 11 in the first quarter in Seattle, but he seemed to tire in that game.) Even before this season, Kaman used to always have big games against Miller. The combination of new Kaman and the team he's always played well against could add up to a really big night.
- Somebody make a shot. The Clippers have been steadily descending the NBA shooting percentage ranks. They're down to 41.5%, 29th in the NBA, and only the oddity that is Chicago is currently worse. The last few games have been particularly brutal. If Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas (two of the erstwhile shooters on the team, a duo who combined to make an embarrassing 4 of 24 field goals against Seattle) don't find their shooting touches soon this team has little hope of ever scoring enough points to win a game.
- Stopping Artest. Ron Artest is a very difficult defensive assignment. Strong as a bull, he also happens to have perhaps the ugliest effective offensive game in the NBA. He's all elbows and butt, he rarely squares up, he'll shoot off the wrong foot... and he scores 22 a game. The Clippers would normally put Quinton Ross on the other team's best scorer if he's playing small forward as is the case with Artest. But Ron-Ron is so much stronger the Q that he'd just brush him off (or break him in half). The assignment may have to go to Maggette - which doesn't bode well.
- Artest stopping. On the other end, Artest will take Maggette... and likely take him right out of the game. A game changing defender on the perimeter, Artest is one of the few guys in the NBA who can just shut guys down. If he does that to Maggette, and neither Mobley nor Thomas can find the range, points are going to be very, very difficult to come by for LA.
- Get the dynamite. These are the two Western Conference teams most likely to be blown up soon. Neither has much chance to make the playoffs given their current injury situation. And most of the other non-contenders in the West (Minnesota, Seattle and Portland) have already been blown up. The question of course remains, who goes, and who wants them. Bibby and Cassell would both be attractive veterans to playoff contenders needing help at the point (like Cleveland and Boston). Miller and Maggette could be seen as potential puzzle pieces for teams who think they're really close. Odds are very good that one or both of these teams will make some major trades during the course of this season.
- Stop the bleeding. The Clippers have of course lost 7 straight, the last three to teams with losing records. The Kings are 7-10, and just lost their leading scorer, so this would seem to be a winnable game. The schedule will not remain this soft much longer. This could get REALLY ugly if they don't get a win soon. Of course, the Clippers are 1-17 in their last 18 games in Sacramento so it's not going to be easy. But the one win was the last time they were there, so I guess they've got a one game winning streak.