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Clippers vs. Atlanta - Game Preview and Open Thread

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season

Staples Center
January 14th, 2009, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Mardy Collins PG Mike Bibby
Eric Gordon SG Joe Johnson
Al Thornton SF Marvin Williams
Brian Skinner PF Josh Smith
Marcus Camby C Zaza Pachulia

The Back Story:

  • First meeting of the season.

The Big Picture:

Eleven losses in a row at this point. But for some reason, I am allowing myself a sliver of hope that the losing streak could end tonight. I'm not sure why that should be. I mean, the Hawks have the fifth best record in the East, and the Clippers have been without much of their team since before the holidays. There's no real indication that any of the missing players will be back, although we can hope for that as well. Ricky Davis is eligible to be on the court, and he'll probably be in uniform at least. But after 6 weeks off, he's unlikely to be ready for extended minutes, and let's face it - he wasn't helping a lot when he was playing. Besides, shooting guard isn't really the problem right now, though it would be nice if he could provide some decent minutes at the three. As far as I know, neither Zach Randolph nor Baron Davis are planning to play in this game, but the current state of their recoveries is nebulous - a brief preview for this game, Lisa Dillman implies neither will play today, saying Baron will likely be back before Z-Bo, but that would be 'next week' at the earliest. But the team has played well enough to win some games lately, and just couldn't hang on at the end. LA is rested, Atlanta lost last night in Phoenix. I just think the Clippers can win this one.

The Antagonist:

The Hawks stated the season 6-0 - they were the next to the last unbeaten, only the Lakers taking longer to drop a game. But they come into LA tonight on their own four game losing streak, and they're 16-15 since that hot start. Of course, that's still a lot better than the 8-29 Clippers on an 11 game losing streak. Atlanta has one key injury of their own - Al Horford has missed a few games with a bruised heel and is not on this trip. Of course, Zaza Pachulia tends to play very well against the Clippers, so it may not hurt the Hawks too much. In fact, there's a host of Clipper killers on the Hawks - Mike Bibby always lit up LA when he was with the Kings (and even before that when he was with Vancouver); Joe Johnson made 7 of 8 threes the last time the teams played. There's talent on this roster, no doubt. Unfortunately for the Hawks, while they were a playoff team last season and will be a playoff team this season, and they're still pretty young, the future is nonetheless partially cloudy. Mike Bibby is in the final year of his contract, and it's far from clear that they'll want him back, with Joe Johnson and now Josh Smith already on monster contracts. The next off-season JJ becomes a free agent.

The Subplots:

  • AT versus the ATL? Al Thornton is from Perry, Georgia. As a rookie, in his first meeting with his home state Hawks, Thornton carried a severely depleted Clipper team to a 95-88 victory behind a then career-high 33 points in 33 minutes. That was Al's 'snub' game - the first game after he had learned that he would not be on the Rookie team at All Star Weekend. He may have to have a similar outburst if the Clippers are to have a chance in this one.
    Joe Johnson from anywhere in the building. I still remember Joe Johnson pulling up for a jump shot from literally 40 feet in the second meeting last season. It wasn't a case of "Oops, the shot clock is running down, the ball got kicked out near mid court, now I have to shoot this crazy shot." He was making everything he shot (as I mentioned, he finished 7 for 8 on his three pointers that night) and on one possession, he calmly dribbled across mid court, and pulled up standing on the wing of the Hawk adorning center court. It was the heat check to end all heat checks - and he made it.
  • Josh Smith - not a Clipper. When Elton Brand suddenly left town this summer, the Clippers considered making an offer to Josh Smith, one of the only options on the market. But Smith was restricted, meaning Atlanta could match any offer, and is not really a power forward. Indeed, Memphis eventually signed Smith to an offer sheet for 5/$58M, which the Hawks matched, keeping him in Atlanta. His rebounding, never great for a 4, is down from 8.6 per game two seasons ago to 6.7 this season, and his scoring has also dipped a couple of points. I'm guessing the Clippers are happy with Marcus Camby.
  • A new stat to track. With two technical fouls in the last game, MDsr now has 9 T's on the season. The team has 8 wins. So the question is, by the end of the season, will the Clippers have more wins than Dunleavy has technical fouls?
    Injury update. Kaman is done until at least the All Star Break because his foot got caught in a time warp. Ricky Davis has finished serving his suspension, and is by definition healthy enough to play, as the league requires him to serve his suspension while healthy. Mike Taylor is of course still out. I have no idea on Randolph and Baron.
  • Flip Murray. Remember last spring when the Clippers waived Sam Cassell? For about a day, we thought they were going to sign Flip Murray to take Sam's roster spot, but he reneged and signed with Indiana and the Clippers signed Andre Barrett instead. Flip's now on the Hawks, and playing 20 minutes a game.
  • All Star for one night. Let's go with Zaza. I mean, why not? It's just fun to write it. Zaza! ZAZA!
    Get the Hawks perspective at Peachtree Hoops.