|November 29, 2008 - 7:30 PM
|TV: FSN Prime Ticket
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have a dismal 2-13 record, second worst in the NBA. However, three of the last five losses came down to the final possession, so the team is being more competitive. In Wednesday's game versus Denver, they battled back from 13 down and had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Marcus Camby's three pointer came up a few inches short. The team is also changing. Zach Randolph made his debut for LA on Wednesday night, but started the game ice-cold, missing 7 of his first 8 shots. And with Cat Mobley leaving town as part of the Randolph trade and Ricky Davis now resting his sore knees, 19 year old rookie Eric Gordon has become the starter at the shooting guard. Gordon has led the Clippers in scoring in both his NBA starts, with 25 and 24 points in the last two games. So if the addition of Randolph can start to help the team, and the opportunity for Gordon continues to help the team, then everything should be fine. Right? Any minute now, the wins will just start pouring in. Chris Kaman, whose averaging 14 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and shooting 57% from the field, missed the final three quarters of the Denver game with plantar fasciitas. The plan was to get a cortisone shot and be ready for this game; he's listed as questionable and will probably be a game time decision.
The Heat are 8-8. They have not won more than two straight, nor lost more than two straight this season, and have not been more than one game away from .500. Given that the team won only 15 games last season, it's pretty impressive that they're already more than halfway to that total after just 16 games. You might be tempted to think that the team's improvement is attributable to second overall pick Michael Beasley - and he's been OK, averaging almost 14 points per game. But make no mistake - there's one reason that the Heat are good again, and his name is Dwyane Wade. After an injury-riddled season in which he missed 31 games and shot 47%, he's back at the top of his game. He's led the Heat in scoring in 14 of their 16 games. The key to stopping the Heat is containing Wade. In their last two games, they lost by 38 in Portland as Wade scored a season-low 12, and followed that up with a 15 point win in Phoenix as he scored a season-high 43. He's averaging 27.4 points and 7.5 assists per game. Amazingly, the Heat are playing well, despite relatively modest contributions from former all-pro Shawn Marion, who is averaging fewer points than he has since he was a rookie 9 years ago. The Heat are starting two rookies, in Beasley and point guard Mario Chalmers, along with Wade and Marion and Udonis Haslem.
- Z-Bo. Zach Randolph scored only 7 points in his Clippers debut, his lowest output of the season. Whether it was the rust of a week off, or issues of getting integrated into a new season, or just on off game, let's hope that it doesn't happen again.
D-Fending D-Wade. The task of trying to keep Wade out of the lane will likely fall on Eric Gordon. At the beginning of the season, MDsr was trying to protect his rookie from the trial by fire of being thrown into NBA games against the likes of Kobe Bryant. Well, he no longer has that luxury. Gordon has defended against Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups in the last few weeks - and he's done a good job. His offensive talents are obvious, but he also has the potential to be the Clippers best perimeter defender. It's also possible that Baron Davis will get the Wade assignment.
Shaun Livingston. Former Clipper Shaun Livingston signed with the Heat prior to the start of the season. He appeared in two games early in the season, but has only played in one since - two games ago against the Blazers.
Going Big. Even if Chris Kaman can play tonight, the Heat is a tough matchup for the Clippers' really big bigs. Beasley has a perimeter game, as does Marion, and either Randolph or Marcus Camby is going to have to chase one of those guys. Beasley did not start in their last game against the Suns and Shaq and Amare, but I expect he'll be back in the starting lineup tonight.
- Get away game. The Clippers schedule has been incredibly home friendly so far (although they have a 1-9 home record to show for it). Following this one, 9 of the next 11 are on the road. You think 2-13 is ugly? It could actually get worse in December if the team doesn't get its act together.
- UPDATES. Ramona Shelburne has some injury updates posted on her blog, (hat tip to Citizen oasisman in the comments). Kaman has been downgraded to doubtful, and Baron Davis is now listed as questionable, having come down with the stomach virus that kept Jason Hart and Brian Skinner home on Wednesday. Crap. With Ricky Davis also out, if Baron can't go the Clippers' backcourt rotation is reduced to Eric Gordon, Mike Taylor, Jason Hart and Mardy Collins. I love Gordon and Taylor, but I'm dubious about playing them 48 minutes.