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Clippers vs. Kings - Game Preview and Open Thread

The Big Picture:

Well, what do you know?  It turns out there's a game tonight.  I pretty much forgot, what with all the excitement around here.  Get ready for a lot of MDsr-DTS split screen shots.  The Clippers are riddled with injuries, lacking in confidence, and searching for an offense... and now they're distracted.  Perfect.  It's possible that the controversy will serve to focus them, that they will band together and rally around their beleaguered and belligerent coach.  And despite what Utah did to them, they are still 6-5 when Kaman, Cassell, Maggette, Thomas and Mobley are all healthy, which they are.  It should also be noted that while the Clippers are 4 and 12 in their last 16 games, they're 3-0 against teams with losing records.  So aside from the fact that the team's leadership is in open confrontation, everything's looking pretty good.

The Antagonist:

Sacramento does indeed have a losing record - but they are not to be taken lightly.  I spent a fair amount of time talking about the impact of significant injuries in a recent post.  It should be noted that some teams have done surprisingly well despite losing top players.  Washington in the east.  And Sacramento in the West.  Their top four scorers from last season have all missed significant time this season - Kevin Martin (17 games missed), Mike Bibby (36), Ron Artest (17) and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (34).  And yet somehow they are 18-22.  In a recent stretch of seven games with all 4 of those guys out, they went 3-4.  Which of course begs the question, are these really there best players?  Because, you know, 3-4 is a better winning percentage than they had last season with those guys mostly healthy.  At any rate, Martin, Bibby and Artest are all back now, and the Kings have won 6 out of 8, including a win over Detroit on the road.  Wow.  That's particularly significant because on the whole it looks like the Kings are pretty hapless on the road at 6-13.  But they've won two straight away games since they got Bibby back, so they'll be plenty confident in Staples tonight.

The Subplots

  • The Unstoppable Beno Udrih.  Based on revelations in the LA Times, MDsr tried to acquire Udrih this summer, but the Kings won the bidding war that ended with Udrih signing a minimum contract.  And apparently that's what undid the Clippers' season.  Stupid management vetoed the deal, cutting MDsr off at the knees and leaving him an emasculated shell of his former self, and the Clippers are 12-25.  Clearly, they would be a playoff contender with the Slovenian Slinger, the Balkan Baller, Udrih the Giant.  The bean-o counters said no Benos - and the season went down the drain.  Seriously, he's played well.  He's making 42% of his threes.  He is - Beno.  (And he bears a vague resemblance to actor Paul Rudd.)
  • Point Guards on Display.  GM's in Cleveland and Boston and Dallas may be watching tonight's game on League Pass, trying to decide what they are willing to give up for a veteran point guard.  It's an open secret in Sacramento that Mike Bibby and Ron Artest can't coexist, and one or both of them will probably be dealt (it should have happened already).  Meanwhile, Sam Cassell is 38 and the Clippers are going nowhere.  It's a lock that Cassell will finish the season elsewhere.  And since Bibby can't guard Cassell and Cassell can't guard Bibby, they each stand to have decent offensive games tonight.  (Actually, Bibby tends to kill the Clippers, so that ain't good.)
  • Go Speed Racer, Go?  On the other hand, Kings leading scorer Kevin Martin tends to look pretty ordinary against the Clippers.  Martin missed the first meeting with LA this season, so this will be his first crack at his old nemesis Quinton Ross.
  • Big Game for K2.  Even before neuro-feedback training, Chris Kaman would light up Brad Miller.  He has had many of the best games of his career against Sacramento.  Indeed, in the first meeting this season, he tied his season high with 26 points on 9 of 12 from the field.  The Kings will no doubt ramp up there defensive schemes to try to stop K2, but let's see if the Clippers can get him more than 12 shots and a new career high.
  • Happy New Year.  I think many of us in ClipsNation have been somewhat disappointed in Corey Maggette this season.  He's leading the Clippers' in scoring at 20.4 per game, but we knew he could score, and frankly we might have been hoping for even more.  But quietly Corey is putting together his best stretch of the season.  He's averaging 22 points per game on 55% shooting in eight games in 2008.