|November 3, 2008 - 7:30 PM|
|TV: Prime Ticket|
|Jason Hart||PG||Ronnie Price|
|Cuttino Mobley||SG||Ronnie Brewer|
|Al Thornton||SF||C.J. Miles|
|Tim Thomas||PF||Carlos Boozer|
|Chris Kaman||C||Mehmut Okur|
The Big Picture:
Here we go again. For the second time in three nights, the Clippers face the Jazz. We've discussed how difficult the Clippers' early season schedule is. One thing we haven't mentioned however is the fact that four of the first five are against the Lakers and Jazz, two teams against whom the Clippers have had no success historically. I mean, sure, there aren't a lot of teams against whom the Clippers have had success, but the Lakers and Jazz have really owned the Clips. I was kind of hopeful that with so few holdovers from prior Clipper teams that this group wouldn't realize the were supposed to lose every game to the Jazz. But they figured it out in the second half Saturday. So that's unfortunate. It's also unfortunate that Baron Davis is in all likelihood going to miss this game - he did not practice Sunday, and is listed as 'doubtful.' The good news is that he is 'improving' and that there is no structural damage. He took a nasty fall, his hip is bruised, he's had some back spasms... he'll be OK, but it will take some time. Marcus Camby is listed as questionable tonight, and I think he's going to play, at least some. Don't expect a lot out of him, given that he didn't even play a single pre-season game. UPDATE: Camby has been upgraded to Probable according to Clippers.com. He'll play - they wouldn't have upgraded him otherwise. Hat tip to citizen Cliprboy in the FanPosts.
The only good news is that Deron Williams will likely miss the game for the Jazz, although if Carlos Boozer is playing, it shouldn't much matter that Williams is out. Boozer is a very good offensive basketball player. Scary good. He's so good against the Clippers, that it makes me wonder if he's that good against the rest of the league. Because he can score pretty much any time he wants against LA, and he makes it look easy. Most of the time he gets layups, but if he has to take a turnaround jumper, that goes in too. He's too quick for Kaman, and he's way too strong for Tim Thomas. Camby didn't spend a lot of time taking the opponent's top low post scorer when he was in Denver, but his length might be able to bother the undersized Boozer some. Goodness knows that no one else in a Clipper uniform has slowed the guy down in years. Not even that other Duke power forward. But Utah is not just Carlos Boozer, even with Williams out. Ronnie Brewer is turning into a monster, and Andrei Kirilenko just creates problems for the other team wherever he goes. Throw in Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver off the bench, and this is a very good, very deep team. They don't block a lot of shots, and they do commit a lot of fouls - other than that, and of course the current absence of Williams - this team doesn't have many weaknesses.
- Hart versus Taylor. Here's what I said in Saturday's preview: "with Baron Davis out, the choice is Hart or rookie Mike Taylor, who will get plenty of minutes in Utah. But there's no question about who MDsr is going to start." Well, after playing Taylor 33 minutes to Hart's 15 (deservedly so) and starting Taylor in the second half, I think we can safely say that there is some question this time. Still, I've listed Hart as the probable starter because I just think MDsr is a conservative guy and he's going to go with the veteran. But to his credit, he did give the lion's share of the minutes to Taylor Saturday, and he'll likely have a even quicker hook for Hart tonight. The team is going to struggle to score without Baron on the floor. Taylor can at least make stuff happen - good and bad.
The Clippers bench. It's not really a coincidence that the Clippers have gone through brutal stretches against both the Lakers and the Jazz. The Clippers reserves have been pretty awful this season, and Utah's strong second unit abused them on Saturday. Ricky Davis, a career 14 points per game scorer, has scored 7 points in three games. He's 3 for 16 and 1 for his last 11 - and the one that did go in got a lucky bounce. The bad news for MDsr is that if he does choose to start Taylor, his best bench scorer (so far anyway) might be Paul Davis. Eek. It's way too early to give up on Ricky Davis - guys go through shooting slumps, and Ricky will bust out of this one. But beginning the season this way, with Baron missing time, is NOT the way we needed him to start his Clippers career. If he wants to earn a bigger pay check next season, he needs to start making some shots.
Who can score? Tim Thomas, Al Thornton and Cat Mobley have eached scored reasonably well at one point or another. But they have not all three played well in the same game. With Kaman still struggling on offense, and Baron on the bench, the Clippers need good games from all three of these guys on the same night. It may be too much to ask. Thornton in particular needs to bounce back. Held to 5 points on Saturday, you can understand how he might struggle against AK47. But he started the game against C.J. Miles. Can we please get Al Thornton some looks against C.J. Miles? The bottom line is, no team wins many games while shooting under 40%, and the Clippers have yet to break through that very, very low ceiling.
Kaman is overthinking things. At least that's my impression. He needs to get back to basics. Work hard on rebounding and defense. On offense, either make the move, or pass the ball - don't hold it. Five turnovers on Saturday (personally equalling the entire Utah team) is a direct result of him holding the ball and allowing double teams to arrive. It's not all his fault of course - the other four players are doing a lot of standing around when he gets the ball, the result of MDsr's stagnant offensive strategy. But Chris has GOT to make quick moves and quick passes. Let's get back to the one dribble rule. Maybe he'll actually make a jump hook for the first time this season if he shoots it instinctively and in rhythm.
Eric Gordon. Let's see. The team is struggling to score. The backup shooting guard is 3 for 16 on the season. The 55th pick in the draft is playing well and giving the team a jolt of energy. What should we do with the 7th pick in the draft, this shooting guard named Gordon? I know... let's play him for 4 minutes of garbage time. Eric Gordon led the team in scoring in pre-season. He scored 33 points in one game, 21 points in one quarter. The Clippers have gone through interminable stretches in all three games where they have been completely incapable of scoring. Yet Gordon did not appear in the game in Utah until 3:41 remaining with the team down 26. I'm not sure how that makes sense.
- The 08-09 Clippers - so far, pretty much like the 07-08 Clippers. For all the talk of the massive turnover on the team, the team has been depressingly similar to last year's edition. With Baron out, the point guard play has been poor (although Taylor offers a glimmer of hope). The team has struggled to score. The four players averaging double-figures? Thornton, Thomas, Mobley and Kaman - all returners from last season's team. All of those newcomers who were supposed to make major contributions simply haven't: Camby hasn't played, Baron has logged 41 minutes, Ricky Davis has been simply terrible, Hart is 4 for 13, and Gordon isn't getting any burn. Leaving us watching a lot of the same stuff we saw last season. Which frankly, wasn't that much fun the first time.