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Clippers vs. Celtics - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
Celtics logo
19-34 42-12
Staples Center
Feb. 25, 2008 - 7:30 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Rajon Rondo
Cat Mobley SG Ray Allen
Corey Maggette SF Paul Pierce
Tim Thomas PF Kevin Garnett
Aaron Williams C Kendrick Perkins
The Big Picture:

OK, now I'm starting to get a little frustrated with this stuff.  Obviously I was wrong, but before the season began, I certainly thought that Elton Brand would be playing by the All Star Break at the latest.  As recently as late January, many of us thought he'd be back on the floor by now according to a poll in a Citizen ZhivClip diary.  Not only do we have no Brand and no Livingston, we will likely be without Kaman again tonight.  And let's face it, we haven't really had Kaman 2.0 since January.  After winning the first two games following the break, including an impressive win over the Jazz, there was reason to believe that the team could at least be competitive in tough games against the Lakers, Celtics, Nuggets and Pistons.  But Cassell and Kaman missed the Lakers game, Kaman is doubtful tonight...  it's just getting old at this point.  Looking on the bright side, Maggette and Thornton continue to play well.  That concludes your bright side update.

The Antagonist:

After starting the season 16-0 against the Western Conference there was plenty of evidence that Boston's NBA best record was no fluke resulting from a weak Eastern Conference schedule.  Upon closer inspection, it turns out that 11 of those wins were in Boston.  They did go 4-0 on their first extended Western swing back in December - but wins in Seattle and Sacramento are not overly impressive, and they caught the Jazz during their 3-11 funk.  Leaving the game against the Lakers as the only real statement win over a Western Conference opponent on the road.  Opening the post All Star Break schedule on their second extended trip out West, they lost three straight in Denver, Oakland and Phoenix before bouncing back in Portland yesterday.  So while 17-3 is still mighty impressive, 2-3 on the road against Western Conference playoff teams tells you something as well.  Don't get me wrong - this team is very, very good.  But they're obviously not the 70 win threat everyone was making them out to be at the beginning of the season.  The Celtics won the meeting with the Clippers in Boston 111-100 in a game in which Sam Cassell was ejected for clotheslining Rajon Rondo.  So that could be interesting.

The Subplots

  • Kaman Doubtful.  As I mentioned, Kaman is listed as doubtful for this game.  Since hirting his left shin in New Orleans one month ago today, it's been one thing after another for Chris.  He missed one game with the left shin, followed immediately by four more with a nasty flu bug.  He came back to play six games before the break, but was clearly not himself after losing 15 pounds while he was sick.  The hope was that a week off would get him back to full strength for the final 30 games of the season, but he went into last Wednesday's game with a sore right shin.  And then, apparently compensating for his sore legs, he tweaked his back.  Oy gevalt.  Is this how the rest of the season is going to be?  It's been a month, and there's only seven weeks left.
  • The Buyout Clock is Ticking.  First things first, because there's a lot of misinformation out there.  I think I have this right, but if you have better information, then let me know.  Cassell must be waived by the Clippers on or before March 1 in order to be eligible to be on another team's playoff roster.  He does not have to be picked up by another team by March 1; just waived by his prior team.  Last year's Jason Hart affair illustrates this best - Hart was waived by the Kings on March 1, and signed with the Clippers on March 5.  Had the Clippers made the playoffs, he would have been eligible to play for them.  March 1 is Saturday.  Although Cassell's agent David Falk was in town last week and sat next to Donald Sterling during the Grizzlies game, there is no word on buyout talks.  For his part, Cassell has been pretty good through all this.  Obviously he would prefer to be on the Celtics and play in the postseason (who wouldn't?), but he's prepared to finish the season with the Clippers if that's the way it goes.  I'm baffled that the team didn't trade him before the deadline - but what's done is done, and if they now buy him out, I'll be even more pissed about the non-trade, but I'll be happy for Sam at the same time.  There's another angle to this story that we haven't really mentioned - Falk is also Brand's agent.  The Clippers have plenty of incentive to stay on his good side.  I never thought it would come to this, and the Clippers will look stupid for getting nothing for the guy.  But when you consider the Brand angle... I now believe that he'll be bought out.  Dammit.  Stay tuned.
  • Maggette on fire.  Here is a partial list of players with a lower PER than Corey Maggette's 20.26:  Brandon Roy, David West, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Rip Hamilton, Josh Howard, Ron Artest, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen.  PER is not the be all end all measure.  But it is one widely accepted method for evaluating a player's performance, and that's an impressive list of current and former all stars behind him.  Bear in mind also that this is his PER for the season, while Corey has been on a simply unbelievable roll since the beginning of 2008.  I'm still not sure who is going to step up and make a big offer for Corey this summer, but his performance of late is pretty hard to ignore.
  • Al Thornton, second leading rookie scorer.  Thornton recently passed Juan Carlos Navarro to become the second leading scorer among rookies.  And unlike many rookies who are slowing down after hitting the rookie wall, Thornton has been on fire in January and February.  I said it at the time, but it's becoming increasingly likely that Al will be named to the first team all rookie team, despite not being among the nine rookies invited to play in the rookie game.  The Clippers have been able to create a pretty good mismatch for one guy or the other by playing Maggette and Thornton together lately.
  • Bill Simmons.  It's always interesting for the Sports Guy when the Celtics come to town; look for a column that springs out of this game in the near future.  By the way, a commenter on CelticsBlog thought I was Simmons in disguise after the Q&A today.  What's that about?