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Clippers at Raptors - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
vs.
Raptors logo
15-31 26-21
Air Canada Center
Feb. 8, 2008 - 4:00 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Jose Calderon
Quinton Ross SG Anthony Parker
Corey Maggette SF Jamario Moon
Josh Powell PF Chris Bosh
Chris Kaman C Rasho Nesterovic
The Big Picture:

The Clippers are on game 5 of their 7 game trip tonight in Toronto.  Unfortunately, they may not be at full Generic strength once again, as Tim Thomas is questionable with back spasms, and Sam Cassell's availability may be up to the mood of Stu Jackson.  The league office reviews every flagrant foul, and they may decide that Cassell's hit on Rajon Rondo Wednesday warrants a suspension for tonight's game.  It helps that Sam was chased in Boston - if the crew working that game had allowed him to continue, there's not doubt that he'd be sitting out tonight.  However, if the choice is between what amounts to a half games suspension or a one and a half game suspension, there's a chance he could play.  It was a hard hit, but Sam's not Stephen Jackson - his reputation and standing in the league may save him here.  If Cassell and Thomas or out, it means that many more minutes for Knight and Ross and Powell.  Update [2008-2-8 17:57:58 by ClipperSteve]: So much for all that: he's suspended for tonight's game.  Hat tip John R.  That's a lot of non-scorers on the floor together, and the Clippers paltry attack can't really survive it.

The Antagonist:

First of all, if you haven't done so already, you should check out the Q&A session with Raptors blogger Kinnon from HoopsAddict (I bumped it up to follow this post on the main page).  The Raptors are currently in the fifth position in the East, and would have a legitimate chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference semis the way things are looking.  They are playing well, despite a significant sophomore slump from Andrea Bargnani, the number one overall pick in the 2006 draft.  Imagine if these guys had LaMarcus Aldridge.  Bargnani is shooting just under 40% from the field (but just over 40% from the three point line).  But Chris Bosh is an All Star again, Jose Calderon should have been an All Star, 27 year old Jamario Moon may end up first team all rookie, and TJ Ford is back on the court.  Interestingly, for all the talk of a Canadian Phoenix, the Raptors actually play at the fourth slowest pace in the league at fewer than 88 possessions per game. But what they lack in pace they make up for in efficiency, especially long range shooting.  They are in the top ten in terms of efficiency and they lead the league (by a wide margin) in three point shooting percentage making a should-be-illegal 43% - the Clippers OVERALL shooting percentage is only 43.7%.  Given the Clippers' difficulty in defending the three the last two weeks (a strength prior to that) it could get ugly tonight.  Jason Kapono (50%) and (former Bradley Brave) Anthony Parker (49%) are 1 and 2 in the league in three point percentage, Calderon (44.5%) is 8th, and Bargnani and Delfino are both over 40%.  Basically, the Toronto ball boy would be the best three point shooter on the Clippers.  You need to stay home on these guys.

The Subplots

  • Another chance to play the Ralph Lawler drinking game.  Anthony Parker is one of two active NBA players from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.  Ralph is from Peoria and is a Bradley alum.  Here's how the game works.  When Ralph says Bradley, you drink.  When he says Bradley Braves, you chug.  When he says Peoria, you drink.  When he says Peoria Illinois, you chug.  When he says Bradley Braves in Peoria Illinois, you chug, then open another one and chug it. Given that it's 4 PM tip tonight, you'll be hammered by 5.  (Yes, I just stole this bullet from the last Raptors game preview, but it's a drinking game - so that's fun.)
  • Matchup Hell.  If Thomas is unable to play tonight, it could conceivably help the Clippers.  Tim Thomas can't guard Chris Bosh (or rather has never shown any interest in guarding Chris Bosh).  Josh Powell might be able to make him work a little more.  But if the Raptors can force the Clippers to double Bosh in the post, those three point shooters will tear them up.  Likewise the perimeter defenders have to keep Calderon and Ford out of the lane because the help defense once again leaves shooters open.  It's all easier said than done of course.
  • Paleontology 101.  It's always bugged me that a 'raptor' is not a dinosaur.  A raptor is a bird of prey (look it up).  Of course they're using raptor as a slang shortening of velociraptor, a dinosaur featured prominently in the book/movie Jurassic Park.  Guess when the movie was released?  Guess when Toronto was awarded an NBA franchise?  It's so steeped in pop culture, they might as well be called the Furbys.  It's especially strange for the last remaining international NBA city to have their team named for a character in a Hollywood movie.  But maybe I'm over-analyzing this.  (By the way, I do like the three-clawed basketball logo.)
  • The rematch.  When these teams met in Staples Center the Clippers played without Cassell and without Mobley, and the Raptors still barely eked out the 80-77 win (prompting me to go into AYSO coach mode for the undermanned Clippers).  If they are similarly shorthanded tonight (depending on what happens with Cassell and Thomas), the Raptors can play a similarly uninspired game and win.  But if the Clippers are closer to full generic strength, the Raptors will need to play better than they did in the first meeting to avoid an embarrassing home loss.
  • Rested Raptors.  The Clippers have been traveling for a week and are playing their 5th game in 8 days with another game in Philly tomorrow.  The Raptors haven't played in 4 days.  Advantage Toronto.
  • Watch This One.  The Clippers' next two games are NOT on local TV - no KTLA, no Prime Ticket.  So if you're jonesing for some Ralph and Mike on TV, you need to be sure and tune in tonight because you won't get another chance until they return to LA next Wednesday.  (The Sixers and Bucks games will be available on NBA League Pass if you have that - though my cable company doesn't even offer it.)
  • Maggette and Kaman.  After missing over a week of basketball with a very nasty flu bug, Maggette and Kaman have been back for a couple of games now.  Corey seems to have returned to form quickly, scoring 33 points and shooting well in the loss in Boston.  K2 on the other hand has not looked sharp, particularly on the offensive end since coming back.  It's understandable - he's lost weight, his energy was probably down, etc.  A big game from K2 tonight would make a huge difference for the Clippers.  He's due, and facing the likes of Rasho Nesterovic and Kris Humphries he should have a decided advantage in the post.