|Mar. 31, 2008 - 7:30 PM
|TV: FSN Prime Ticket
The Clippers snapped their longest-in-4-seasons 10 game losing streak Saturday against the Grizzlies. And frankly, that would have been a good game to lose, with the Grizz only a few games behind (ahead?) in the lottery standings. So if that's how it is, if they're going to start winning some games, then let's do it right and hurt Dallas. Last Tuesday in Big D the Mavs handled the Clippers 103-90 behind a strong second half from Josh Howard. But LA played that one without Chris Kaman, and Erick Dampier went nuts with 19 and 17 against the tiny, Generic Clippers. With Kaman back in the lineup, the Mavs massive rebounding advantage should be neutralized. It's also worth noting that in their earlier meeting in Staples Center this season, the Clippers outplayed the Mavericks (with Nowitzki) the entire game before falling at the buzzer on a Jerry Stackhouse three. The Mavericks didn't deserve that win, so let's take one back.
The Mavericks are reeling. Since the Jason Kidd trade, they are 10-10. That record contains a nice clean split - 10-0 against teams with losing records, and 0-10 against teams with winning records. Unfortunately for them, 6 of their final 9 are against teams with winning records, and if they actually make the playoffs, all of those games will be against good teams. As for the post-season, it's far from a given, a shocking development for the 2006 Western Conference Champs and the team with the best regular season record last season. With consecutive losses to Denver and Golden State, the Mavs suddenly find themselves tied with the Nuggets and Mavs as the three teams looking for two musical chairs. And while the Mavs are 10-10 in their last 20, the Dubs are 13-7, and the Nuggs are 12-8. Noticing a pattern? It gets worse. The Mavs have lost 5 of 6, and are 1-2 without Dirk Nowitzki, with the sole win coming against the Kaman-less Clippers in far less than convincing fashion. Josh Howard has scored 30 in three straight games trying to pick up the slack, but this team would seem to be headed in the wrong direction.
- Spoiler Alert. With one game remaining against each of the Mavs, Nuggets and Warriors, the Clippers can play a little spoiler in the ridiculously tight Western Conference race. (It's of course less likely because of simple math, but it's still quite possible that all three will make the playoffs if a team like Utah or Houston suddenly went on a losing streak. It's crazy close in the west.) With home games against Dallas and Denver and an Elton Brand return looming, those are the wins I'd cherry-pick if I could; pay back Avery Johnson for last season, and just cuz with the Nuggets.
- Brand cleared. As I mentioned, Elton Brand has been 'medically cleared to play.' But that probably doesn't mean he'll make his season debut in this game. It's more likely that he'll get a few minutes Wednesday night in Seattle. But it could happen tonight. If Tim Thomas is still hurting, there would be no reason not to at least suit Brand up. If nothing else, having him in a uniform and warming up before the game would be a welcome sight.
- The Kaman Countdown. For what it's worth, Chris Kaman needs 92 rebounds to reach 800 for the season, qualifying him to appear on the list of NBA leaders. With a per game average of 12.9, he's solidly in third place in rebounds per game. There are 9 games remaining, so assuming he plays in all 9, he only needs to average a smidge over 10 per game to make the cut on the season. After a slow re-start with 5 and 7 in his first two games back from injury, he looked back on track Saturday against Memphis with 15 boards in 28 minutes.
- Al Thornton. Of course we know that Al is coming off a career-high 39 against the Grizzlies. Not only did he tie an all time franchise record for points in a game for a rookie, it was also the highest point total for any rookie in the NBA this season. That may be even more impressive, especially when consider the hype around Kevin Durant, and the fact that Durant has the ultimate Emerald light in the Emerald City. The Dallas defense will be better than Memphis. But if Al is hitting his jumper, it may not matter.
- Backcourt size. Last week against Dallas MDsr gave Smush Parker the start at point guard for the first time in his Clipper career. Whether that was because Brevin Knight's leg was hurting, or strictly to match up with Dallas' big backcourt of Jason Kidd and Jerry Stackhouse, I cannot say. Knight is coming off his best game of as a Clipper with a season-high 14 points and 11 assists on Saturday. Hopefully Knight gets the start and keeps it rolling.
- Stopping Howard. Josh Howard carried the Mavs through a long portion of last week's meeting, scoring 20 of 26 points during one stretch of the second half. The refs were sending him to the line constantly on his home court (he shot and made 15 free throws), so we'll see if he gets the same treatment in LA. But someone on the Clippers needs to step up and play some defense as well, since almost all of Howard's point came on isolations. Q Ross missed last week's game, but may be ready to play in this one if no one else can do the job.