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Clippers @ Washington - Game Preview

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Verizon Center
January 31st, 2009, 5:00 PM
KTLA Channel 5, 710 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Mike James
Eric Gordon
SG Caron Butler
Al Thornton
SF Dominic McGuire
Brian Skinner
PF Antawn Jamison
Marcus Camby
C Darius Songaila


The Back Story:

  • First meeting of the season.

The Big Picture:

Playing against the team with the best home record in the NBA, the Clippers were able to stay close for awhile last night in Cleveland.  But after playing the first half to a 54-54 tie, the Cavs took over in the second half and won by 17.  But there were some encouraging signs of life for the Clippers to be sure.  Eric Gordon and Steve Novak each played among their best games of the season, after playing among their worst games on Wednesday.  And Baron Davis, in his second game back after a 13 game injury absence, was effective and active rebounding (7), passing (8 assists) and on defense (3 steals); though not shooting the ball, where he was 4 for 13 overall and ohfer jumpers.  Still, with Baron and Marcus Camby available and Novak looking more and more like a big time offensive weapon, the Clippers are actually able to put a reasonable set of five professional basketball players on the floor at the same time again, which has not been true for many, many weeks.  This is the second game of a long seven game trip, and they don't get much more winnable than playing the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and the only team in the NBA with fewer than 10 wins.  Of course, the Clippers are circled on their calendar too, as a way to get that 10th win.

The Antagonist:

There is one and only one team of bloggers who can talk to me about injuries these past two years, and that is the team from Bullets Forever.  The Clippers have lost two straight seasons at least partially to injuries, and the Wizards have as well.  Of course, in the Wizards case, it's the same guy at the heart of the injury problem, and it just happens to be a guy they gave $111M to this summer (sweet merciful crap, $111M!)  I thought the Wizards did a great job of being competitive last season despite the injuries to Arenas and others, and they actually made the playoffs.  But this season, it seems like it all became too much.  They still have two other All Stars in Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, but the Wizards have been terrible from day one of the season.  One thing the Wizards are finding out right now, that the Clippers found out as well, is that injuries can be particularly devasting when they hit one position.  For the Clippers, it was the point guard, where they've had their top 4 players out.  For the Wizards, it's center.  Brendan Haywood has been out all season, Etan Thomas is out, and Andray Blatche just went down as well.  So if you're confused about who the guy is that looks like Stewie Griffin, that's Oleksiy Pecherov.

The Subplots

  • Back to back.  Both teams lost last night, both teams had to travel to DC.  The Wizards had the easier trip from Philly, but Cleveland's not a horrible trip either.  Camby and Baron are of course still working themselves back into game shape, but they've been on restricted minutes, so hopefully they'll be OK tonight.  Both Jamison and Butler played 40+ minutes last night - they average 38 minutes per game each.
  • 20-20-10-10-10 - Jamison and Butler average 21 and 20.1 points per game respectively.  After that, the Wizards third leading scorer is second year player Nick Young at just over 10.  Mike James and Andray Blatche are each averaging 10 as well.  Conventional wisdom is that you have to have at least three scorers - but after Jamison and Butler, these guys have nothing.
  • Trivia Time - Who are the two worst players to have averaged 20 points per game for a full NBA season within the last decade?  Give me your answers in the comments, and I'll post the correct answer in the Game Thread.  (I know, it's subjective, but I think most people would agree with my answers.)
  • The three ball.  The three pointer is fast becoming a major weapon of the Clippers.  They're still among the worst in the league (28th out of 30 to be precise) in terms of percentage at 33%, but they have been shooting it a little better lately.  Also, they're no longer at the very bottom of the league in terms of three point attempts per game.  Their 16.6 attempts per game ranks them 20th, quite a difference from dead last in recent years.  Novak and Gordon are of course the reasons behind the increase - if we can get Baron to stop taking them the attempts per game will plummet, but the percentage will skyrocket.
  • Avoiding Ignominy.  The Clippers have come up against the team with the worst record in the NBA a couple of times this season, in a situation where if they lost they would be passed in the standings by that team.  And they've somehow avoided that fate.  Of course, the first two times it was against the Thunder, against whom the Clippers have 3 of their 10 wins.  Hopefully the Wizards provide the same sort of relief.
  • Matchups.  Jamison is always a tough assignment.  He's a classic tweener - not as big as a traditional power forward, not as quick as a small forward.  He scores in a variety of ways from a variety of positions - he has the full collection of junk shots.  So who guards this guy?  Skinner will probably draw the initial assignment, but it's a tough job for him.  Butler is also tough, especially playing shooting guard right now.  If Gordon has to cover him, he'll be giving up at least 4 inches.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that the Clippers can arguably win all of the other matchups - but it will help if Baron plays well.
  • Eric Gordon.  Gordon will close out a remarkable month of January no matter what he does today.  He scored 30 in back to back games on the 4th and 6th, and set a Clipper rookie scoring record with 41 on the 23rd.  He has also scored over 20 points per game in 10 of his last 17 games, and has scored in double figures in 19 straight.  I have a feeling he's going to close out his big month with another big game. 
  • Superstar for one game.  How about Nick Young?  The second year point guard from USC was high on the Clippers draft board last year and is playing well for the Wizards this year, one of the few bright spots in their season. 
  • Get the Wizards perspective at Bullets Forever.