|Mar. 10, 2008 - 4:00 PM
The Clippers are 1-0 on their final Eastern road trip of the season. It's been a strange season in general, but the Clippers home and road records are among the stranger phenomena, especially against East teams. The Clippers have split their two games with 5 Eastern foes this season - in each case, they lost at home and won on the road. How's that for weird? So the fact that Orlando won in LA 113-106 back in January isn't very predictive. The fact that Orlando is pretty good, and the Clippers haven't beaten many good teams lately - well, that may tell us a little something. If Chris Kaman can play and play well tonight against tiny-headed Dwight Howard then the Clippers may have a chance. Especially if Cat Mobley can stay on a roll, joining Corey Maggette and Al Thornton as scoring threats. If Kaman can't play (Aaron Williams is also likely out) that leaves Josh Powell and (gulp) Nick Fazekas to contend with Howard. Let's hope EMT's are standing by courtside.
After a hot start, the Magic have hung on as the third seed in the Eastern Conference all season. But I don't think anyone really views them as a serious threat. Boston and Detroit are the clear favorites, and Cleveland with LeBron and his new cast is probably considered more dangerous than Orlando, despite the fact that the Magic remain 3.5 games ahead of the Cavs, and have been ahead of them all season. The Magic also happen to be 2-1 against the Celtics, 2-2 against the Pistons and 1-1 against the Cavs (with two more games to come) this season. So maybe they are a legitimate contender. The team added Rashard Lewis in the off-season, but the stars of this team are Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, both of whom are having career years. Howard is simply the biggest baddest man around now that Shaq has slowed. And Turkoglu is a 6'10" playmaker. The Howard-Lewis-Turkoglu front court makes up for a less than inspiring backcourt, and no bench to speak of.
- The Generic Donut Clippers. All season long, the Clippers have had no Brand. Lately, they've also had a hole in the middle. Back in January, Kaman did well against Howard, going for 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots despite being limited to 34 minutes by foul trouble. But if Kaman's back is tender, asking him to lean against the man-mountain that is Dwight Howard might be unwise. As I said before, Kaman has to play and hold his own for the Clippers to have any chance in this game. If Kaman doesn't play, I expect a 30-20 from Howard (if the game stays competitive long enough, that is).
- Thornton versus Rashard. When Al Thornton starts at power forward, the Clippers run the risk of being overpowered by opposing fours. That's not the case in Orlando. With Tony Battie hurt all season, they don't really have a traditional four, and Lewis has been forced into service there much the way Thornton has had to play out of position for the Clippers. Both of these guys can score the ball. And Lewis has never shown much interest in defense. Thornton against Lewis should be a good matchup for the Clippers today.
- Posting up Dickau. OK, just kidding. But Jameer Nelson is one of the few point guards in the league who looks up at the 6'0" Dickau (I mean aside from all the other Clipper points). The Clippers have been fortunate so far that they haven't run into any really bruising point guards since Cassell has been gone. But Nelson is quick and he is strong. He could easily have a big game against the Clippers.
- Cat Has 9 Lives. Cat Mobley scored 33 points in the third game of the season. He pulled a muscle in the fourth game, and hasn't been the same since. In 54 games from then until Monday, he scored 20 only 3 times, and never more than 20. And then he went for 29 against the Heat. It goes without saying that they offensively challenged Clippers get a lot more competitive when their shooting guard, can, what's the word... oh yeah, shoot.