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Clippers at Mavs - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
at
Mavs logo
21-48 44-26
American Airlines Center
Mar. 25, 2008 - 5:30 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Jason Kidd
Cat Mobley SG Jerry Stackhouse
Corey Maggette SF Josh Howard
Tim Thomas PF Brandon Bass
Josh Powell C Erick Dampier
The Big Picture:

The Clippers have lost 7 in a row, and while no one really likes losing, they are actually getting close to stealing a few ping pong balls from Memphis and/or Minnesota.  Dallas is reeling after three straight home losses and an injury to reigning league MVP Dirk Nowitzki, and desperately needs a win, as they are in serious jeopardy of dropping out of the playoff picture with or without the Diggler.  When a team that really needs a win plays a team that doesn't care, the team that needs the win almost always prevails (the exception, the proves the rule, last April 15th).  Kaman has been upgraded from Questionable to Doubtful, but he won't play based on MDsr's comments after practice yesterday.  Yet another example of the thinly veiled code that glosses over blatant tanking - a player with a bad back participates in a full court practice, but will be held out of the game.  Wait?  Isn't that backwards?  Don't you skip practice so that you can play when it counts?  The tiny Generic Clippers are 2-15 without Kaman this season; the Mavs won't have any problem with them even without Dirk.

The Antagonist:

The Mavericks are in trouble.  The 2006 Western Conference Champs, the team with the best record in the NBA last season, is currently in 7th in the Western Conference standings, a mere game and half ahead of 9th place Denver.  With a road-heavy remaining schedule, and 3 of the next 5 against the Nuggets and Warriors who are chasing them, followed by games at the Lakers and at the Suns, they could easily find themselves several games out of the playoffs by the time Nowitzki is back on the court, even in the best case scenario.  So they can ill-afford to lose either of their two games with the Clippers, tonight or next Monday - they're most winnable games on the next two weeks.  They are 9-8 since the Jason Kidd trade, losing a bunch of close games to good teams along the way.  That's not how it was supposed to work - he was supposed to help them close out those tough games, right?  Instead, the Mavericks could be looking at the worst of all worlds - an expensive trade (they gave up youth, depth and a whole lot of money to get Kidd) that was designed to help them win NOW, and instead they may miss the playoffs for the first time this millenium.  People lose their jobs over this kind of thing.

The Subplots

  • Spoiler Alert.  It would be fun if the Clippers were able to play spoiler a little these last few weeks.  And of the 9 teams battling for playoff positions in the west, the Lakers, Nuggets and Mavs are the three I'd most like to beat, in that order.  Unfortunately, these two Dallas games are too early - still no Brand, and I don't see the Generics pulling it off.  But according to today's papers, MDsr is targeting the last homestand for an EB return, so it looks like we'll get our shot at both the Lakers and the Nuggets.  Let's hope that it's either the Mavs or the Nuggets that get left out of the party and not the Warriors.
  • Karma.  Why am I lumping the generally inoffensive Mavs in with the hated Lakers and Nuggets?  You may recall that last April, Dallas faced Golden State in a late season matchup as the Clippers were battling the Dubs for the last playoff spot in the West.  Avery Johnson sat all of his starters and handed the Warriors the game.  At the time, I said it was bad Karma, and indeed the Mavs have been paying for it ever since.  Of course, Karma isn't reserved only for Texans.  It turns out that when your owner is a self-aggrandizing, lying bastard who pretends to be building a center for homeless children, ligaments, tendons and backs throughout the roster pay the karmic toll.
  • Undefeated against Kidd.  As it happens, the Clippers are 2-0 against Jason Kidd this season, having won both matchups with the Nets before the trade.  As mediocre as he looked in those two meetings, and without Nowitzki to contend with, I would actually give the Clippers a chance in this game if Kaman is allowed to play.
  • Al Thornton.  The Clippers' rookie is struggling in March, shooting just 39%.  He's been held below double figures scoring 6 times in 13 games this month, after scoring more than 10 in 14 of his prior 15.  Has he finally hit the wall?  More likely the double burden of playing without a low post presence on the team in the absence of Kaman, and playing out of position most of the month (no Kaman means Thomas is playing minutes at the 5, means that Al is getting almost all of his minutes at the 4), has limited his effectiveness.  For instance, in the last two against Portland, where he scored 10 points total and shot 4 for 21, he was forced to cover the 7'1" Joel Przybilla most of the game.  He may not have hit the rookie wall, but trying to box out Przybilla for 40 minutes probably feels like hitting a wall.
  • Fazekas Returns.  The Mavericks thought enough of Nick Fazekas to use the 34th pick on him last June, drafting him just ahead of Big Baby Davis.  After training camp, they signed him to a two-year guaranteed contract.  But in order to create a roster spot for Keith Van Horn (!) as part of the Kidd trade, they had to waive Fazekas.  Talk about karma!  Anyway, it would be really cool if Fazekas could have a big game against the team that pays the majority of his salary.