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Clippers at Rockets - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
at
Rockets logo
23-58 54-27
Toyota Center
April 16, 2008 - 5:30 PM
TV: FSN Prime Ticket West
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Rafer Alston
Quinton Ross SG Tracy McGrady
Corey Maggette SF Shane Battier
Elton Brand PF Luis Scola
Josh Powell C Dikembe Mutombo
The Big Picture:

And so, the 2007-2008 Clippers season comes mercifully to an end.  Generic for 74 out of 82 games, they were missing the latest upgrade (no Kaman 2.0) for the other 8, not to mention 18 other games.  By the way, they're now 3-22 in games played without Kaman this season, a much less embarrassing 20-36 with him in the lineup.  Anyone who says this team won't be competitive with Kaman AND Brand (2nd team All-NBA a mere two seasons ago) just isn't paying attention.  But with Kaman out, and Brand still getting back to form, it's just a matter of playing out the string.  The fact that every opponent is facing a must win game doesn't really help the situation.

The Antagonist:

The Rockets can finish as high as third with a win, as low as 6th with a loss.  First round and second round matchups don't really matter - they're going to see Utah or Phoenix in the first round, and won't see the Lakers until the finals, regardless of what happens tonight.  But they'd obviously like home court advantage in that first round matchup, and they have to win tonight to have a chance.  A four way tie for positions three through seven in the conference is a distinct possibility, requiring Utah to beat the Spurs tonight, and Phoenix and Houston to beat non-playoff opponents.  The tie-breaker rules get really nutty at that point.  We're just lucky the Hornets won the division last night - otherwise the division winner could actually have been a lower seed than another team in the division, believe it or not.

The Subplots

  • Guard Play.  When these two teams met two weekends ago in Staples Center, the Rockets guards absolutely dismantled the Clippers.  And I'm not talking about Tracy McGrady.  Bobby Jackson, Aaron Brooks and Luther Head completely embarrassed Brevin Knight, Dan Dickau, Quinton Ross and Smush Parker.  Obviously, it ain't hard to embarrass that group, but let's see if they have enough pride to put up a fight tonight.
  • Rookies to Watch.  Rockets rookies Luis Scola and Carl Landry are both rated ahead of Clipper Al Thornton in David Thorpe's final Rookie rankings with all three of them in the top 8.  Who knows how closely Al watches ESPN.com, but when he was left out of the Rookie game, he went for 33 that night.  Thornton has scored over 20 in three straight and 7 of his last 11.  Aaron Brooks and Nick Fazekas are also rookies who have played very well late in the season.  (By the way, hard to believe now, but the  consensus from the Orlando pre-draft camp last June was that Jared Jordan totally outplayed Aaron Brooks.  Not sure why I bring that up, but sometimes I go back and look at what I said in the past.)
  • Maggette.  If Corey Maggette scores 28 points tonight he will average a career high 22.1857, surpassing his previous career high of 22.1818 set in 04-05.  Hands up - who thinks Corey knows that?
  • Last Look.  Quinton Ross, Dan Dickau, Nick Fazekas, Smush Parker and Marcus Williams are all unrestricted free agents this summer.  Elton Brand and Corey Maggette both have opts outs.  Paul Davis and Shaun Livingston won't be playing tonight, but they are both free agents this summer as well.  And Cat Mobley and Tim Thomas will no doubt be on the trading block, unlikely though a deal may be.  Basically, Kaman, Powell, Thornton and Knight are signed and pretty likely to be Clippers next season (and Brand as well).  As for anyone else, get a good look tonight, because it may be your last chance.
  • The Ping Pong Ball Watch.  The Clippers are currently tied with the Knicks for the 5th worst record in the NBA.  As such, the split the ping pong balls of the 5th and 6th spots.  The Grizzlies are another game back.  If the Knicks manage to beat the Pacers, they hand over a few more balls.  If the Grizzlies manage to beat the Nuggets in Denver (certainly unlikely, though perhaps not impossible given the Carmelo distraction and the fact that the Nuggets are likely locked into the 8th spot and may choose to rest some guys), they hand over a few as well.  So watch those out of town scores.