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Clippers at Indiana - Game Preview and Open Thread

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2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Conseco Fieldhouse
December 19th, 2008, 4:00 PM
KTLA Channel 5 (5:30 PM)
Probable starters:
Baron Davis PG Jarrett Jack
Eric Gordon SG Marquis Daniels
Al Thornton SF Danny Granger
Zach Randolph PF Troy Murphy
Marcus Camby C Jeff Foster

The Big Picture:

Well, the Clippers 3 game winning streak ended in Chicago Wednesday night in Overtime, but the team is still playing good basketball. And if you think about it, the streak of not losing in regulation is still alive! The lack of depth is really starting to show. The injuries to Chris Kaman and Ricky Davis are obviously the biggest reason for that, but don't forget the Zach Randolph trade. Both Tim Thomas and Cat Mobley are capable scorers, whereas Mardy Collins is not. This, of course, is the canard of the bench scoring question. I think we all realize that the Clippers are better with Zach and Mardy than they were with Cat and Tim. But it did remove a bench scorer from the rotation. At the end of the game, you have to have more points on the scoreboard than the other team, and it doesn't matter where those points came from. The Clippers starters are on a pretty good roll - all except for the leader, Baron Davis. Baron 40 for 114 in his last five games (35%) and has only been to the line 14 times in that span. He's been an effective distributor (he had a dozen assists Wednesday), but the team needs more scoring and more efficiency from him. Overall, when I look at these two rosters, there's really no reason the Clippers should not win this game. So naturally I'm concerned.

The Antagonist:

The Pacers are very, very hard to figure. After opening the season 5-5, including a shocking win over the Celtics, they proceeded to lose 11 of their next 13 - but one of those wins was over the Lakers. So go figure. They've won two straight - over two of the worst teams in the league, the Wizards and the Warriors. Of course, the Clippers still fit into that category record-wise, so the Pacers are no doubt hoping to make it 3 in a row. Forward Danny Granger leads the Pacer, and is fifth in the entire NBA in scoring at 24.4 points per game. The guys in front of him are named Dwyane, LeBron, Dirk and Kobe. Oh yeah, and he was on the board when the Clippers drafted Yaroslav Korolev in 2005. Ooops. Granger is coming off a career-high 41 on Wednesday. The Pacers played without TJ Ford and Troy Murphy Wednesday, and have been missing Mike Dunleavy Jr. all season, so they could be very short handed tonight. (Ford and Murphy are listed as day-to-day, but it looks like Murph will play while Ford is a game time decision.)

The Subplots

  • Eric Gordon Homecoming. Less than two years ago, Eric Gordon was playing in the state championship in Conseco Fieldhouse for North Central High (they lost). It's an interesting trip for EJ, who got booed in Chicago by Illini who are still bitter over the fact that he reneged on a verbal commitment to attend Illinois and ended up at rival Indiana instead. And of course there's that whole 'costing the Clippers the game' thing. You can bet EJ is hoping to have a big game in his home town, because he'll have lots of people in attendance, and because he wants to bounce back from the Bulls loss. His one year with the Hoosiers was traumatic - he and the team started off on fire, but an injury to EJ, a recruiting scandal, a coaching change, and apparently drug use on the team, conspired to scuttle the season. It's also a homecoming for Zach Randolph, who played his High School ball in Indianopolis as well.
    Granger. In almost any draft, you can look at players in hindsight and say, "We should have drafted that guy." So, for instance, Dirk Nowitzki turned out to be a slightly better pro than Michael Olowokandi. We should have drafted Nowitzki, right? But no one other than Don Nelson knew anything about Dirk at the time of the 1998 draft, and there wasn't a single person in the NBA - not even Nelson - who would have taken Nowitzki (who wasn't even playing in the top German league at the time) with the number 1 overall pick. But the Granger-Korolev 'Monday-morning-quarterbacking' is different. Granger was the known quantity, and Korolev was the stretch - ironically, a Nowitzki-like stretch for a young, skilled big playing in a junior level European-league. Everyone seemed to know that Granger was falling too far as he fell all the way to Indy at 17. Still, I don't think anyone envisioned him averaging 24.4 points per game.
    Z-Bo. Randolph has been on a tear, scoring at least 30 points in 3 of his last 4 games and 21 or more in every game he has started for the Clippers. I see no reason for that to end tonight. Indiana really only plays three bigs: Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster and Rasho Nesterovic, and I don't see any of them handling Zach one on one.
    Coaching Changes. With all of the coaching changes this season, tonight's game features half of the survivors. There are only 4 coaches in the NBA with losing records who survived the off-season and the first two months of this season, and these are two of them. We know why MDsr has been able to avoid the ax - he's got a long term contract and the owner is very averse to spending extra money. It's hard to say what's going on with Jim O'Brien and the Pacers. Of course, it's not necessarily a good thing that firing your coach is the new normal, so if Larry Bird thinks that O'Brien is doing a good job with what he's got, then that's great.
  • Tape Delay. For some reason, just when Channel 9 wised up and quit delaying east coast Laker broadcasts, Channel 5 decided to take up the practice. Tonight's game tips at 7 in Indianapolis, which is 4 Pacific Time, but the broadcast starts an hour and a half later at 5:30. This presents a bit of a dilemma for those of you have already discovered the interwebs. If you are watching the local broadcast on Channel 5, you probably want to stay away from this thread, as much as it pains me to say that. I'll create another thread, that won't show the score, for the locals in case you want to discuss what you are watching with less possibility of spoiling the surprise.
  • Superstar for one game. T.J. Ford has killed the Clippers in the past, but he may not play tonight. Jarrett Jack has been a problem too, but that was last year against the Clippers teeny-tiny point guards. I don't see him being the kind of guy that will be a problem against Baron Davis. Let's go with Marquis Daniels. He's a streaky scorer - if an unlikely guy is going to go off against the Clippers, it's Daniels. Then again, I'm literally always wrong on these.
    Get the Pacers perspective at Indy Cornrows.