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Clippers vs. Warriors - Game Preview and Open Thread

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1-7 3-5
Staples Center
November 15, 2008 - 12:30 PM
TV: KTLA, Channel 5
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG C.J. Watson
Cuttino Mobley SG Kelenna Azubuike
Al Thornton SF Stephen Jackson
Marcus Camby PF Corey Maggette
Chris Kaman C Andris Biedrins

The Big Picture:

The Clippers started the season 0-6 and now they're 1-7. So they're playing .500 ball in their last two games. Great news, right? Not so much. After getting their first win of the season last Sunday against the Mavericks, the Clippers faced a non-playoff team for the first time this season Wednesday night when they hosted the Sacramento Kings. So it wasn't just another in a string of losses. It was a loss against a team they were supposed to beat - a team playing without their leading scorer. LA played very little defense and showed very little heart in the game. In particular, the starters were simply ineffective. Chris Kaman played so poorly that he was benched for the fourth quarter. Baron Davis was completely outplayed by Beno Udrih, who outscored him 30-12. Marcus Camby managed only 4 rebounds (only 2 on the defensive glass) in 30 minutes. Al Thornton was 6 for 16, but only 1 for 8 on the mid-range jumpers for which he continually settled. Whether they're still looking for an identity or have already found one - that of a last place team - is fast becoming irrelevant. If the team doesn't start playing well, the season will be over almost before it began.

The Antagonist:

The Warriors and Clippers played an interesting game this off-season. (One which Tim Kawakami argues they both lost.) Baron Davis opted out of the final year of his Golden State contract on June 30th and announced that he was signing with the Clippers on July 1. Elton Brand also opted out, and the Warriors made him a huge contract offer immediately upon finding out the Davis would sign in LA. Brand eventually signed in Philadelphia and the Warriors instead signed Clipper Corey Maggette to a $50M deal. The Clippers countered by signing Warrior Kelenna Azubuike to an offer sheet, which the Warriors subsequently met. Golden State even worked out former Clipper Shaun Livingston. In the final tally, the net effect between the two teams amounts to a trade of Corey Maggette for Baron Davis, a deal that clearly favors the Clippers. When Monta Ellis wreaked his ankle in a moped accident over the summer, a bad situation in Oakland suddenly got worse. Ellis was supposed to take over the point guard duties, but during his injury and subsequent suspension for disciplinary reasons, a series of fringe NBA players like C.J. Watson and DeMarcus Nelson are running the team. And it doesn't help that Al Harrington asked to be traded, resulting in a feud with coach Don Nelson which now finds Harrington mysteriously suffering from back spasms. The Warriors have started the season 3-5, which is better than the Clippers, but not very good. Especially when you consider that they've lost to the Grizzlies not once but twice. Still, Don Nelson teams are always dangerous. Andris Biedrins has become a Latvian double-double machine, we certainly know what Corey Maggette is capable of, we all got pretty geeked about the idea of Azubuike as a Clipper, and there's always Stephen Jackson. Both the Clippers and the Warriors are expected to be on the outside looking in come playoff time - if either team hopes to prove that prediction wrong, this is the kind of game you have to win.

The Subplots

  • Biedrins. A couple years ago, when that Duke power forward was playing for the Clippers, there was that other Duke power forward in Utah. Boozer seemed like a nice enough player, but he clearly wasn't as good as Brand. Then suddenly, he began to outplay Brand, game after game. The situation with Biedrins and Kaman reminds me of that a little. Both teams have their goofy blond seven footer with the bad haircut. When Biedrins and his agent were asking for 'Kaman money' this summer, I thought it was crazy talk. (He ended up signing for a little less on a per year basis.) He's a nice enough center, but he's no Kaman, right? Well, in 8 games this season he has 8 double-doubles, and he's averaging close to 17 points and 15 rebounds. I'm not sure how he's scoring the points - I've never noticed any discernible offensive skills in the man. But he's long and he's active and right now he's putting up huge numbers. The Clippers have been getting killed on the boards lately - someone is going to have to put on body on Biedrins or he's going to get 25 rebounds.
    Dysfunction Junction. I've gotten a perverse pleasure this summer out of seeing the dysfunction in the Warriors front office - I guess because misery loves company. After years of watching Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his right hand team president Andy Roeser undermining the efforts of first Elgin Baylor and then Mike Dunleavy Sr, the same situation has unfolded in Golden State, in even more dramatic fashion. In the past several months, Owner Chris Cowan's right hand man Robert Rowell has vetoed a contract extension for Baron Davis, suspended Monta Ellis, and fired assistant GM Pete D'Allessandro, all contrary to the wishes of GM Chris Mullin. Mullin is in the final year of his own contract, and is clearly a lame duck at this point. The Ellis suspension seems particularly craven to me. By suspending him for 30 games - a number which roughly coincides with the expected length of his recovery from the injury - Rowell is essentially just taking money away from Ellis, while carefully avoiding hurting the team in any way. Talk about gutless. If you want to make a statement, suspend the guy when he's healthy. This suspension amounts to a fine - and the conflict of interest in the owner's stooge levying a fine against a player is painfully obvious.
    Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Corey Maggette played 8 seasons in LA. I assume that Corey will get a warm welcome from the Staples Center crowd. He came to the Clippers as a raw second year player, and developed into a consistent scorer, averaging over 20 points per game during three different seasons. We'll see if Al Thornton learned any tricks from guarding Corey in practice all last year or vice versa. There will be no such direct matchup for Baron Davis against his former mates, since most of the Warriors healthy point guards are new to the club (C.J. Watson saw spot duty with the team last year). But let's hope Baron doesn't fall into old habits and toss the ball to Stephen Jackson at the three point line.
    Matchup mania. Who knows what will actually happen with Don Nelson, but in Thursday game against the Pistons, he had Corey Maggette starting at the power forward and defending Rasheed Wallace. If that happens again, Maggette will draw Marcus Camby, a more favorable matchup for Corey since Camby is not a skilled low post scorer. It will also mean that Camby has to chase Maggette around screens and try to keep him from driving to the basket on the other end. This sounds like a bad matchup for the Clippers, unless Camby can just dominate the glass. Not to mention that Jackson is a tough cover for Al Thornton. Depending on how things go, we may see Thornton sliding over to the 4 spot, Mobley on Jackson, and either Ricky Davis or Eric Gordon making an early appearance.
    Speaking of EJ and Ricky. For the first time this season, Gordon got the first call during Wednesday's game, coming off the bench to replace Cat Mobley before Ricky entered. A few minutes later, Ricky came in for Thornton, and responded with his best game as a Clipper (his first non-terrible game in fact). Citizen Zhiv prophesied that Ricky would bust out of the slump once he saw his minutes being threatened, and lo it hath come to pass.
    Mr. Flippy. Kaman had a terrible game against the Kings, lapsing into full Mr. Flippy mode. He decided to travel instead of just dunking the ball on one catch at the rim (call him Mr. Skippy on that one) and then missed a lefty flip all alone on the right side in the second half (classic Mr. Flippy). What can we do to get this guy to dunk the ball? I don't think the salary cap allows the Clippers to pay him for each dunk. Maybe we can take up a collection. Or get him something he really likes. I know! Hey Chris, the readers of Clips Nation will give you a pointy new arrow every time you dunk.