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Clippers vs. Denver - Game Preview and Open Thread

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Lac1_70_medium
vs.
Den_70_medium


2-12 9-5
Staples Center
November 26, 2008 - 7:30 PM
TV: FSN Prime Ticket
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Chauncey Billups
Eric Gordon SG Dahntay Jones
Al Thornton SF Carmelo Anthony
Marcus Camby PF Kenyon Martin
Chris Kaman C Nene

The Big Picture:

In the second game of the season, LA blew a 18 point halftime lead over the Nuggets and lost in overtime. Of course this game will be different - it will feature Carmelo Anthony, and Chauncery Billups, and Marcus Camby, and a full game of Baron Davis (who was injured in the first quarter of the earlier meeting). And one other guy. The Clippers will (for reals) play their first game with Zach Randolph tonight. Although the trade that sent Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas out of town at first seemed to leave a hole at the shooting guard, Eric Gordon served notice Monday against New Orleans that he's ready to fill the void. If indeed Randolph is in the lineup tonight, it's hard to imagine a more talented 2-12 team. I've supported really bad Clippers teams. Teams that had no business winning any games. Teams that Lamond Murray led in scoring. This team does not suffer from a lack of talent. Something else has them mired in misery. But after the pre-season injuries, and the changes, and the tough schedule, and now more changes, the excuses are eventually going to run out. They have to start winning some time, or there needs to be some accountability. There's just too much talent out there to be stuck on two wins. By the way, since Washington won Tuesday night, it's now once again the second worst record in the NBA. Thank the FSM for the Thunder (or should I thank Thor?)

The Antagonist:

Like the Clippers, the Nuggets pulled off a major early season trade. But in stark contrast to the Clippers, the Nuggets trade made sense on every level. Don't get me wrong - the Clippers had very little to lose, and it may work out for them. But the one thing the Nuggets have needed for years is a point guard. They gave the Iverson-Anthony experiment plenty of time, it didn't work, and acquiring all star Chauncey Billups for Iverson was a great move. The results so far have been impressive - the Nuggets are 8-2 with Billups at the helm, and suddenly one of the spots at the playoff table that everyone thought was empty may be filled again. The opposition hasn't been the best during Denver's 8-2 run - there have been some really bad teams in the mix - but they do have a win in Boston in there. With Nene playing the best ball of his career, the Nuggets high paid front line (perhaps the only set of three front court players in the league making more than Camby, Kaman and Randolph) is impressive. And Billups is a much better choice for getting them all involved.

The Subplots

  • Marcus Who? When the Nuggets traded Camby to the Clippers for nothing this summer, they were taking a gamble that Nene would come back strong from his bout with testicular cancer. The fact that Nene had a history of other injuries as well, and that the Nuggets literally had no other options at the time, made it all the more risky. To say that the Brazillian has responded does not really convey his resurgence. He's shooting 64% from the field, compared to a career percentage of 53% and a previous best of 57%. He's shooting 75% from the line, compared to a previous best of 69%. He's blocking twice as many shots as at any time in his career. He's averaging career highs in... well... everything. In short - if anyone in Denver says they expected this level of productivity from Nene when they moved Camby, they're lying.
    The Disconnect. Yes, the Nuggets are 8-2 with Billups and 9-5 overall. Yes, they're leading the Northwest Division, ahead of the Jazz and everyone's darlings the Blazers. But truthfully, they're not playing very well. Aside from Nene and Kenyon Martin, the entire team is shooting poorly. Carmelo Anthony is shooting a career low 39% from the field. JR Smith, who signed a big contract in the off-season, is shooting a career low 38% from the field and 29% from the three point line - and for JR Smith to shoot a career low, it has to be pretty low. Of their six leading scorers, three of them are under 40%, and Billups is at 41%. So it's actually pretty surprising that they're 9-5.
    Zach Randolph. (I get to reuse this bullet since he didn't play Monday.) Who knows what's going to happen with this? The guy's a monster on offense. And his best play (which also happens to be a favorite of MDsr) is 'Gimme the ball.' So how much practice time do they need for that?
    Shooting Guard. In this space Monday I said that 19 year old Eric Gordon wasn't ready to be the full time starter. And then he went out and scored a team high 25 points, while defending Chris Paul, in his first start as a pro. Shows what I know. Gordon has unlimited range on his picture perfect jump shot, the quickness and athleticism to get to the rim, and the ability to create his own shot. He's going to be very, very good before the season is over. MDsr has already surprised me once this season, recognizing very quickly that Mike Taylor was outplaying Jason Hart and demoting the veteran to third string behind the rookie. Will he act just as quickly and decisively with EJ, and make him the permanent starter ahead of Ricky Davis? UPDATE: Missed this last night: the Pest says the Ricky is doubtful tonight. So EJ will likely start again, but we may have to wait to see if MDsr is making it permanent, or just resting Ricky's knee.
    Kaman Rumors. In the wake of the Randolph trade, we now get to deal with more rumors about Kaman trades. Look, I get it. Charlotte has already inquired about Kaman. The Clippers need a shooting guard. Baron Davis and Jason Richardson had a very successful run as teammates in Oakland. Kaman for JRich is a rumor made to order. But there are a couple problems. First of all, MDsr adores Kaman. Second, I just don't see the Clippers bringing in a shooting guard owed $40M over the next three seasons when their lottery pick just went for 25 in his first start. What does JRich do to EJ's development? I'm not going to say that there's no way this trade is happening, because we all know what happens when I do that. In fact, I guarantee you this trade WILL happen. And very soon. There, that should take care of it.
  • Camby's Revenge. Marcus was not happy about being traded for nothing. He felt that he was being made the scapegoat for Denver's playoff struggles. He missed the earlier meetings (including one pre-season game) between the teams, so this is his first chance to show his former team that they made a mistake. Of course, with the Clippers at 2-12, one would think that he'd have plenty of incentive to play hard, but if this give him a little more focus, I'll take it.