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Clippers vs. Heat - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
vs
Bucks logo
7-11 4-15
Staples Center
Dec. 9, 2007 - 12:30 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Jason Williams
Quinton Ross SG Dwyane Wade
Corey Maggette SF Dorell Wright
Tim Thomas PF Udonis Haslem
Chris Kaman C Shaquille O'Neal
The Big Picture:

The Heat come into the Sunday matinée at Staples Center riding a 5 game losing streak.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily bode well for the Clippers, who have made a habit of helping the opposition break out of slumps this season (Warriors first win, Bulls first road win, Sonics first Conference win, Bucks 4 game losing streak, etc.)  At least the Clippers are no longer on their own losing bender, having beaten Sacramento Friday for their first win in 8 games.  This is a 'get away' game for the Clippers as they start a four game road trip on Tuesday.  It sure would be great to get this win before hitting the road.

The Antagonist:

Did somebody forget to pay the gas bill, because something happened to the Heat.  A mere 19 months ago they were the champions of the NBA.  Now they are 4-15, dead last in the woeful Eastern Conference - only Minnesota is worse in the NBA.  And let's face it - they were a two man team in May 2006, and those two guys are still there.  So what's the deal?  Well, Shaq is 35.  That's old.  And although centers tend to play longer than players at other positions, the massive ones don't fare as well.  Wilt Chamberlain averaged over 20 points per game at age 34, but dropped below 15 at age 35.  Still, Shaq looked great a couple weeks ago on national TV against Yao - when he's motivated, he can still get it done.  Whether Chris Kaman (or maybe being back in Staples Center) is enough to get his motor going remains to be seen.  As for DWade, he missed the first seven games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery.  In the 12 games since his return, he's averaging 21 points on 44% shooting - well below his standards of the last few years.  Ricky Davis, acquired from the T-wolves for Antoine Walker, is actually Miami's second leading scorer at 15 points per game, and as it happens he has a history of torching the Clippers.

The Subplots

  • Kaman gets another challenge.  We've discussed Chris Kaman's historical struggles against centers bigger than he.  In games so far this season, he's played well against Ilgauskus and Yao.  But now comes the biggest challenge of all.  Perhaps because they shared a position and a building for one season, Shaq has seemingly always made it a point to crush Kaman.  In five career meetings, Shaq has averaged 23 points to Kaman's 6.  Because of Shaq's injury problems, they haven't actually met each other in almost two full years, since Jan. 06.  Kaman's a much better player now than he was then - hopefully he can use the increased range on his jump shot, and his quickness advantage, to pull Shaq away from the basket and beat him off the bounce.
  • DFending DWade.  Quinton Ross will get the initial assignment of guarding Wade.  Mobley will see some duty there also, and possibly Patterson.  Containing Wade is the key to stopping Miami.  They don't run their offense through Shaq in the post - they run it through Wade on the wing (much to Shaq's displeasure).  Wade remains at best a poor jump shooter with limited range (he's 1 for 11 on three pointers this season).  The key is to stay in front of him and keep him out of the lane and off the free throw line.  Easier said than done of course.
  • No such thing as a free lunch.  Speaking of the free throw line, Wade and Corey Maggette are each in the top 10 in free throw attempts per game.  Interestingly, while Wade takes more (9.9 per game versus 8.6), Maggette actually makes more (7.2 versus 6.8) owing to Maggette's excellent 83% FT shooting as opposed to Wade's dismal 68%.
  • Sam's back in town.  But that doesn't necessarily mean he's back on the court.  On Friday Jonathan Abrams reported that Sam would return from Houston and was targeting this game, but MDsr seemed unconvinced.
    Cassell flew to Houston during the current trip to receive treatment at a facility that had previously treated him.

    He is targeting Sunday's game against the Miami Heat to return, although Dunleavy said the injury may force him to miss more time.

    "I don't think he's going to be ready," Dunleavy said. "All these pulled muscle deals are a couple of weeks."

    I rolled my eyes on that last sentence.  Sam has been out 12 days.  Pretty darn close to MDsr's magical 'couple weeks'.  Meanwhile, Cat Mobley sat 7 days.  I guess not all pulled muscles are the same - not where the blanket is concerned.  After our experience with Mobley, I sure as hell don't want Sam to try to return before he's ready.  But as far as I can tell, MDsr was not being ironic in this quote - or rather, not intentionally.

  • Is Mobley better?  After 7 dismal games during the 7 game losing streak, Cat made 5 of 7 shots against the Kings in Friday's win.  He says he's finally beginning to feel better.  Given the direct effect he's had on the Clipper's fortunes this season, let's hope he's back.

  • Where did that come from? After collecting 8 DNP's and a ninth game where he played a single minute between November 14th and Dec. 3rd, Dorell Wright has started the last couple of games for the Heat. Against the Warriors on Friday, he went for 19 points and 17 rebounds. Now, the Warriors are a weird team and weird things happen when they're involved, but still. Pat Riley's desperate to find a combination that works in Miami, and maybe Wright is ready for his close-up, in this his 4th season after making the jump from LA High Schooler to the NBA.

  • I wonder how the peasant bloggers watch the game.  ClipperSteve will be attending his first home game this season in style.  ClipperMax, ClipperZoe, the ClipperWidow and I will be in a luxury suite in seats purchased at a charity auction.  It will be the first time for me watching the Clips from a suite - although I have been there for a Kings game.  My only regret is that I won't be able to heckle Smush Parker.