|November 12, 2008 - 12:30 PM
|TV: FSN Prime Ticket
The Big Picture:
The Clippers are coming off their first win of the season - a 103-92 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday afternoon. They've had an extra day and a half of rest for the first time on the young season. The Kings played last night in Sacramento. The Clippers are facing a non-playoff team, non 50-win team for the first time this season. I'm not sure if a 1-6 team can have a 'trap' game, but if so this could be it. With the day off, bored sports columnists on both coasts were trying to create problems for the Clippers. But Chris Kaman and Baron Davis were having big fun playing together on Sunday, and hopefully that will come through again tonight.
The Kings traded away Ron Artest in the off-season after having traded away Mike Bibby last February. That left Kevin Martin as the only remaining member of their Big Three. And then Martin turned his ankle game before last. So tonight the Clippers face a rebuilding team lacking the player they're rebuilding around. I don't even think there's a word for such a team. Still, these are NBA players and if you take them lightly it will not go well. John Salmons in particular has always played better against the Clippers than Speed Racer (though Quinton Ross had something to do with that) and Brad Miller is a long time Clipper killer. This seemingly innocuous group of Kings were leading against the Pistons in the fourth quarter last night. It must also benoted that the Kings are 3-1 in Sacramento this season and 0-4 on the road, so that's another factor in the Clippers' favor.
- You just can't lose this one. We've made a big deal about all the 50 win teams the Clippers have been facing and the lack of pre-season games together. Facing the Kings, without Kevin Martin, in Staples, with more rest, eight games into the season, with key players healthy... the Clippers just can't lose this game. There would be no excuse - none.
- Lucky breaks (or lucky sprains). In seven games this season, the Clippers have faced five teams missing a key player, many of them all star caliber. The Nuggets, Jazz (twice), Rockets and Mavericks were missing Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Shane Battier and Josh Howard respectively. That trend continues - tonight against the Kings minus Kevin Martin and in the next two games against the Warriors and Spurs. It's just one of those things (unless MDsr has some voodoo dolls we don't know about). So far, they've been mostly unable to take advantage of the weakened competition, partly because they were not at full strength themselves. At the end of the season, a win is a win, and it won't matter that you met teams playing below full strength, but you have to take advantage of these opportunities. Two season ago, when the Clippers went 40-42 and missed the playoffs by two games, they lost numerous games like these - to the Raptors without Bosh, the Rockets without Yao, etc. etc. They have to do better this time.
- Jason Thompson. Before the Dallas game we talked about how some athletic power forwards like Paul Millsap and Carl Landry had been killing the Clippers. LA managed to keep Brandon Bass in check Sunday, but tonight the face yet another four in this mold in rookie Jason Thompson. When the Kings drafted Thompson out of Rider with the 12th overall pick many eyebrows were raised. But the rookie is averaging 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting almost 59% on the season so far so it looks like they knew something the rest of us didn't.
- Kaman - King Killer. Throughout his career, Chris Kaman has had some of his best games against Sacramento. Traditionally, he struggles against really big centers, and running teams present a different issue. But if Kaman is Goldilocks, then Brad Miller is just right - not too big, not too small. Second year player Spencer Hawes and Thompson may change the equation some with Miller's minutes decreasing, but look for Kaman to have a big game. Citizen Zhiv pointed this out in a recent comment, but it really needs to see the light of the front page - Kaman is now shooting almost 52% for the season. We've discussed before the importance of FG% in Chris' game - when it's down, it usually means Mr. Flippy has reappeared. Well, after shooting 10 for 32 in the first three games, he's 27 for 40 in the last four. Let's get him some more shots.
- Big game for a big point guard? Baron Davis has the strength to overpower smaller opponents. Well, Beno Udrih has never been known as a great defender, and he's giving away some size to Baron. And Bobby Brown at 175 pounds has been getting the back up minutes (hey, that's Reggie Theus' prerogative). I'm not seeing how the Kings are going to handle Baron tonight.
- Tracking Gordon. Eric Gordon played 17 minutes against the Rockets and 30 minutes against the Mavs. I don't expect him to play 30 minutes tonight, but if he comes into the game and plays well, he might get more minutes than the struggling Ricky Davis, and keep Cat Mobley on the bench for awhile. It's clear that he's in the rotation, and will get some burn, but he needs to continue to earn it. The offense will come - he's too talented. But if he keeps working hard on defense, he'll be a fixture in the rotation.
- Thomas. Tim Thomas' ankle is feeling better, and he may play tonight. Try not to be overwhelmed with joy.