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Clippers vs. Nuggets - Game Preview and Open Thread

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LA Clippers logo
vs.
Nuggets logo
23-54 46-31
Staples Center
April 8, 2008 - 7:30 PM
TV: FSN West (NOTE - Not Prime Ticket - West)
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Anthony Carter
Quinton Ross SG Allen Iverson
Al Thornton SF Carmelo Anthony
Elton Brand PF Kenyon Martin
Josh Powell C Marcus Camby
The Big Picture:

OK, here's your game-by-game list of key players and their status with the Clippers.  Chris Kaman - out with a sprained ankle (now he's saying he's going to shut it down for the season after all).  Corey Maggette - out with a strained hamstring.  Shaun Livingston - out for the season, following major knee surgery, but the tendinitis is getting better and he still plans on playing in Summer League, so make those Vegas plans.  Elton Brand - fourth game back from Achilles surgery.  Tim Thomas - probable after missing several games with two sore Achilles tendons.  Cat Mobley - second game back with a sore heel.  So of the six highest paid Clippers, half of them will be available tonight, which is actually an improvement over the last few games, if you can believe that.  Of course, I'm not counting the long-departed Sam Cassell - if you count him, then it's 3 of the 7 guys who make over $2M.  Still, there will be a team on the court, so I guess that's good.

The Antagonist:

The Nuggets are deadlocked with the Warriors for the eighth and final playoff position in the West.  Unfortunately for the Nuggets, after winning 7 of 9, and with two games against teams with losing records and a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Dubs, they proceeded to drop back-to-back games against the Kings (playing without Ron Artest or Brad Miller) and the Sonics (winners of 18 games on the season).  So just go  on ahead and try to figure the Nuggets - I dare ya.  With no Kaman for the rest of the season, and probably no Maggette for awhile, it's kind of pointless for the Clippers - it doesn't matter if they lose, and they have little hope of winning.  Still, if there's a team left on the schedule the Clippers could beat, it's the Nuggets.  It's not that they're worse than the others - but they are less consistent, and the Clippers just seem to have their number.  In a similar game earlier this season, the Clippers got one of their rare wins against a winning team playing the Nuggets without Maggette (and of course without Brand).  So it's always possible that the Nuggets will lay an egg against the Clippers.  They'd be wise not to - they have the Warriors Thursday night in Oakland, and entering that one a game behind in the standings on a three game losing streak would be blood in the water for Baron and his boys.

The Subplots

  • Melo on the Rebound.  One of my criticisms of Carmelo Anthony over the years has been his anemic rebounding for a guy his size.  Well, after averaging less than 5 rebounds 2 seasons ago and 6 rebounds last season, Carmelo is up to a respectable 7.5 rebounds per game this season.  That's a 50% increase over two seasons ago and a 25% increase this season alone.  It's also good for 32nd in the league, and second only to LeBron James among small forwards (although Carmelo is of course a very big small forward).  So credit where credit is due, Carmelo Anthony is a MUCH better rebounder than he once was.
  • Matching Up.  One of the reasons the Clippers have played well against the Nuggets over the years is that they have gotten outstanding individual defensive performances against the Denver stars.  In truth, it's been much tougher since AI got to the Mile High City.  Look for MDsr to start Brevin Knight on AI and Ross on Anthony, but Ross will get his turn chasing AI as well, and Mobley will log a lot of minutes on Carmelo.  Of course, with Mobley essentially playing small forward in that lineup, the Clippers could well get destroyed on the boards, as they did against Houston on Sunday.
  • Lob passes.  When Brevin Knight connected with Josh Powell on Sunday, it was, by my count, the second successful Clippers lob pass this season, and the first one that actually looked good.  In contrast, the Nuggets will have at least five in this game alone.  Anthony, Kenyon Martin, JR Smith and Marcus Camby all love to get them, and several Nuggets are effective throwing (with Camby being perhaps the best of the bunch at delivering the ball, surprisingly).  So it's tough to overplay the Nuggets on the wings or cheat off too much on the weak side, because they will kill you with lobs.
  • Fazekas and Williams.  I'll just keep writing it until it happens.  This game means nothing.  Hey, I got an idea!  Let's see what these rookies that have been with the team for a very short time can do!  With Maggette out, let's hope we see Williams before garbage time tonight.  Hell, stick him on Carmelo - a little trial by fire.  What exactly have we got to lose?