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Clippers - Kings Preview

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I posted way back in November about the last time the Clippers won in Arco Arena.  It was 17 losses and over 9 years ago now.

Of course, the Clippers are theoretically a better team than the Kings now, although that didn't stop them from being swept in the season series every season of the MDsr era.  That much has already changed, as MDsr got his first win against his nemeses from the State Capital earlier this season.  That win, combined with a win tonight, would allow the Clippers to avoid losing the season series to the Kings for the 9th consecutive season.  But as of now, that nasty losing streak in Sactown lives on.

The Kings are a team in seeming disarray.  Although they did a get an improbable win over the Suns in their last game, it took 37 points and 9 of 12 threes from Mike Bibby to do it.  Bibby's shooting just over 40% from the field on the season, easily a career-low, so while the outburst was welcome to Kings' fans, they probably shouldn't get used to it.

Before the Suns game, the Kings had lost 9 out of 10, including 3 straight at home.  Team chemistry is far worse than the Clippers chemistry this season, and that's saying something.  Mike Bibby and Ron Artest, by all accounts, despise each other.  They tried to trade Bibby; they would love to trade the virtually untradeable Artest, who has now hinted that he may just quit the NBA; and coach Eric Musselman is so sure he's going to be fired, he is apparently interested in the San Diego job, which would be about the sixth best job in the West Coast Conference.  (Quick, what's a Torero?)

When Artest doesn't play for the Kings, the backcourt of Bibby and Kevin Martin moves fluidly, the high post passing of Brad Miller opens the floor, and the Kings play pretty basketball.  They usually don't win, because they just don't have enough talent and Miller and Bibby are ATROCIOUS defenders, but at least they are fun to watch.  When Artest plays, everything just sort of lies there.  Artest is the place basketballs go to die.  Is there a less attractive great player in the NBA?  I'm not talking about his personality or his rap sheet or even his face - his GAME is HIDEOUS.  It's effective, but so, so ugly.  Everything he accomplishes on a basketball court comes from sheer brute strength.  Some strong basketball players are still fluid - Shaquille O'Neal or Corey Maggette for instance.  Ron Artest plays basketball like a weightlifter.  All force, no finesse.

In theory, the Artest-Kings are not well-suited to play the Clippers.  Artest can be very disruptive to a team that relies heavily on a wing scorer.  But the Clippers have no single player to focus on, and you can't use him on Brand.  (He's strong enough, but length is the key against Elton - EB's eyes light up when he's guarded by anyone shorter than he is, which is rarely, although Kenny Thomas is one of those smaller opponents EB relishes.)

So there doesn't seem to be much of a contest here, at least on paper.  The Clippers bigs are better by far than the Kings bigs - that is if Kaman decides not to suck (he traditionally plays well against Miller).  The Clippers are hot (winners of 4 out of 5 and 5 out of 7, mostly against good teams) while the Kings are cold.  The Clippers are fighting hard to hold onto the 8th spot (which still means something to them), while the Kings would be disappointed even making the playoffs (a couple of these guys were a Robert Horry three away from the NBA Finals a few seasons back, as hard as that is to believe).  Quinton Ross has absolutely owned Martin, the Kings leading scorer, this season.  And surely Jason Hart is going to play his ASS off against Bibby - never underestimate the additional motivation of sticking it to your former tormentor.  

There's every reason to win this game and no reason to lose it.  Unless you count a 17 game losing streak.